Andy's Reviews > Going Solo

Going Solo by Roald Dahl
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Aug 04, 12

bookshelves: 2012, illustrated, autobiography
Read from August 04 to 05, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: counteless

Following on from Boy, Going Solo was another tremendously important book to me as a child. Where I could relate to his boyhood tales in some way, the next part of his life was a complete window to another world. Read then it was extraordinary and magical; read now I appreciate it on different levels entirely.

Dahl mentions how lucky he felt to have witnessed the later days of colonial Britain and the people that made the empire. All negative issues relating to Colonialism aside (I'm not going to go there and neither does Dahl) I completely understand what he means. The first half detailing his time in Africa working for the Shell Company is brilliant; a window to a life that no longer exists, with long boat journeys, quirky slightly mad Englishmen (and ladies) abroad, the culture and way of life. It's clearly romanticised; a big adventure, but then it's portrayed with such vigour and love that you can see the appeal to a fresh faced early-20 year old. I would have loved it (and probably still would). As a boy it made me dream of African countryside, baking suns, lions, deadly snakes and a different world.

The second part, detailing his experiences in the war as a pilot is equally enthralling though very different in tone. This was my first exposure to the second world war in any real way (back at primary school in the late-80s - we didn't cover the wars until secondary school and my subsequent interest developed a few years after that) and Dahl makes it all seem jolly exciting. Almost over before he began, his initial adoration of flying is powerfully detailed before his (more truthfully documented) account of the crash that put him in hospital for 6 months.

After, we have a series of raids and dogfights which become somewhat mechanical and repetitive in nature but still hold the interest. I wonder now though, whether his emphasis on a jolly adventure isn't quite as truthful as it could be; he states a few times that looking back he wonders why he wasn't more scared. I wonder the same. The horrors of war only really peak through at times and I suspect this was him writing for a younger audience.

Put together though, both Boy and Going Solo are wonderful books for children to open their eyes to different types of stories and worlds. Dahl's relaxed narrative envisages a cosy fire and glass of whiskey, reminiscent of an afternoon with your granddad. Equally of interest to the adults too.
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