Happy Roald Dahl day!! I hope you had a truly rambunctious day dressing up and eating cakes and taking tea and generally observing and enjoying yourself, as the great man would have wished.
Although my first love was and always will be Crime Fiction, Dahl has been one of my heroes ever since I first read The Twits. Here was an author unlike any other: a man aiming his books at children and managing to convey very adult messages in an incredibly patronising way. His books were easy for my young mind to grasp but his rich and evocative descriptions and superb use of language imprinted upon my impressionable young mind and made his writing impossible to forget.
His stories have that timeless feeling that is usually associated with fairy tales and fables. There is no situation in which a Roald Dahl book cannot be referenced, and no sadness that cannot be cured with a trip down memory lane and a re-reading of James and the Giant Peach. This, in my opinion, is why his books have stood the test of time- they are still performing Matilda as a stunning stage show (I saw it recently as part of a hen party and would thoroughly recommend it) on the West End, and the BBC regularly adapts his novels into beautiful and insightful adaptations.
Additionally, what makes Dahl’s tales truly timeless is their ability to convey complex feelings and emotions through simple narrative and unfiltered dialogue. The characters are so realistic that they could be real people, despite many of the books being aimed at young children. Their almost poetic simplicity gives the reader a selfish feeling of enlightenment as they forage for the message behind every action in Dahl’s work.
Whilst other books aimed at children can feel forced, Dahl effortlessly offers writing suitable for readers of any age, with many adults taking away messages from these surprisingly complex stories. They are also surprisingly adult in their themes, with issues such as severe poverty, abusive parents and sheer desperation all explored in an understandable way. Many of his characters face serious peril in the course of their adventures, but despite this Dahl manages to excite and beguile the reader through his sumptuous descriptions and down-to-earth storytelling style.
Quentin Blake’s stunning illustrations combine with Dahl’s masterly storytelling and flare for imagination to create genuinely perfect books that are beloved by both adults and children. So on this, the day dedicated to celebrating this extraordinary man and his exceptional work, I urge you to go forth and read!