Image: Hannah Corbett, Hodder and Stoughton Publishing.

 ‘P.S. Please send my riding breeches as soon as possible. Also a pot of Marmite please. RD’.  Reading about 12-year-old Roald Dahl’s requests to his mother at the end of the letters he wrote from his school in Weston-Super-Mare was both a delight and joy. Love from Boy is a biography that encapsulates Roald Dahl’s journey from a child to an author through a series of letters he wrote to his mother, Sofie Magdalene.

From 1925 until his mother’s death in 1965, Dahl captured his life in writing from the walls of his schools, then on into the war, before ending with his career in Hollywood. His letters not only present Dahl’s development as a writer but also shows a son’s devotion towards his mother. Each of the letters is affectionate, vivid and brings to life aspects of his past that many of his readers might not be familiar with.

“We are watching the world’s first storyteller emerge as a writer.”

Donald Sturrock author of Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl (2010), has beautifully edited together Love From Boy so that readers develop a clear picture of Dahl’s life. The letters are split up into seven sections: private school, public school, working in colonial Africa, training to be a fighter pilot and crashing his plane; the final two chapters capture his time  in America and the beginning of his career as a writer. Unfortunately, the letters are one sided and show only Dahl’s letters to his mother, and there are sometimes gaps in time between his them. But Donald Sturrock has written a short introduction to each section which provides the reader with context of the period of time in which the letters are set, and this makes them a lot easier to understand.

The letters themselves as thoroughly enjoyable and are filled with Roald Dahl’s hilarious wit that will have you laughing out loud. But what I really enjoyed reading was how he develops as a writer as the letters progress. The language Dahl uses while at school is very blunt and descriptive, and it was at first very difficult to get absorbed within his letters. However, as the book progresses Dahl’s language changes as he grows older, his style becomes mature and the letters become more exciting to read. But what captivated me most was Dahl’s plane crash in the Libyan Desert in 1940. Sturrock describes it as ‘undoubtedly the key event in Roald’s life. For the first time he tasted mortality’. Dahl lied about the extent of his injuries to his mother to not worry her. In a telegram, he writes how he only has a ‘concussion broken nose’, however, we know from his letters that he spent months recovering from his injuries. From this section of the book Roald Dahl’s affection and devotion towards his mother and his family shines through and it was a beautiful experience to read.

Love from Boy not only immortalises Roald Dahl’s life, but also the life of his mother. It presents a series of letters showing a son’s devotion towards his family, and a stunning development of how Dahl transitioned into a writer.

Other works by Donald Sturrock:

  • Buy Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl on Amazon 

Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother, editor Donald Sturrock. Hodder and Stoughton, 2016.

Emily Davies

Emily Davies

Emily Davies was born in the North-West of England, on a little peninsula known as the Wirral, where she spends her time between the pages of works by Cornelia Funke, Sarah J Maas and V.E Schwab. She has a passion for fantasy fiction, and is currently working on her first Young Adult novel. The book, entitled “Celestial”, follows the story of twins, Luna and Tristan, as they try to unravel the secret of their parents’ death, and discover their own destinies in the process. In the future, she hopes to publish her own novel and work within the publishing industry.