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Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  707 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Now in paperback—Donald Sturrock’s Storyteller is “a major literary biography…packed with intimate details, sharply intelligent commentary, and surprising revelations” (The Washington Post) of one of the greatest writers in the twentieth century, whose work still delights millions around the world today.

A single-minded adve
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Paperback, 672 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 14th 2010)
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Mary McCoy
When I was 10, and a huge fan of books like The BFG and The Witches, my mother sat me down and explained, in rather age-inappropriate detail, the saga of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal, her near-death experience, how he'd nursed her back to health, and then had the nerve to cheat on her and leave her for a younger woman.

At the time, I had no idea why my mother was following the love life of my favorite children's author. But then I read Sturrock's biography, and learned about the carefully choreog
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Claire
I love Roald Dahl's books for children, so this was fascinating reading. His life is as interesting as his books, and reveals the roots of many of the themes you notice recurring in his work - orphaned children, adults that range from the malevolent, to the benign and childlike.

But it's a 500-pager, so I would not necessarily recommend reading this book unless you're a big fan. But in its defense, it's also a wonderful memoir that has shades of the expat life, world war II tales in the RAF, Was
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Ilana Waters
Needless to say, at 655 pages, this is an extremely thorough biography. However, Sturrock seems a bit too much in love with his subject, preventing any real objectivity. He seems so enamored of Dahl that the emotional devastation the latter surely wreaked during his lifetime is glossed over. And it could just be my oversight, but I never heard the term “borderline personality disorder” mentioned once, though Dahl exhibits many of the classic symptoms.

The word “subversive," however, is frequentl
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Fiona
As a big fan of 'Boy' and 'Going Solo', it was fascinating to read more about Roald Dahl's adult life, including his work in the United States during World War 2, particularly his espionage work for the British government alongside his pal Ian Fleming. Donald Sturrock has created a meticulously researched biography, where he disputes long-held truths about Dahl's life, often stories spun by Dahl, the master story-teller himself.

Even though it is a commonly-held assumption that Dahl was a bit gru
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Louise
Prior to reading this book the only thing I knew about Roald Dahl's personal life was that had married Patricia Neal. His fame as a children's author did not fit with this nor my image of him (from book jackets) with his aloof aristocratic bearing. This book describes the reality of his amazing life. Now I see how it all fits.

The book, in covering Dahl from his roots in England and Norway to his death in 1990, is excellent. Author, Donald Sturrock, assembled a lot of known and new material and p
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

If you're anything like me, you mostly only know British author Roald Dahl through his deliciously dark children's tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as maybe a handful of other Young Adult titles like James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and The Witches, all of which have been made into major H
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Bookmarks Magazine
Reviewers welcomed a new biography of Dahl on the twentieth anniversary of his death. Even though Sturrock's is not the first, his access to the Dahl family and their archives helps him to deliver a more thorough book on the children's author than has yet been attempted. Critics tended to agree that Sturrock has made great use of the new material, balancing the daffy, avuncular Dahl of the books with the very dark man he proved to be in real life. But some reviewers felt that the book's prose wa ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
A very wise man (my Dad) once told me that a good way of knowing if you liked someone was to think about how you would feel about getting stuck in a lift with them. If the idea would not phase you or you think that you would get on quite nicely, you probably think they're ok. If on the other hand, the idea makes you shudder, then he or she is most probably someone you would prefer to avoid. I loved pretty much all of Roald Dahl's children's fiction growing up but having read his biography, I thi ...more
Ardea Smith
Title / Author / Publication Date: Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl/2010

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Plot summary: So many children love Roald Dahl and his fantastical stories, it seems imperative that such a classical biography was written to chronicle his own amazing life. Donald Sturrock, the author of Dahl's biography, begins the book with his first meetings with Dahl, a notorious grump. Gradually, Sturrock gains Dahl's trust and is allowed into his writin
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Mike Smith
I had no idea Roald Dahl led such a fascinating life, fighting in the air battle for Athens, mixing with the most powerful American politicians, and circulating amongst the Hollywood gliterati. For most of his life, it seems he was least famous for writing children's books.
It's no shock that he had a challenging childhood given his kids vs. adults approach to children's lit, but his life was full of more trials than imaginable. Yet he approached many of them with such directness and intensity
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Nicole Gilbert
I have loved Roald Dahl's children's books since Mr. Preston read us The BFG in 2nd grade. Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory all have the fantastical story lines and imaginative narration that keeps both adults and children reading and wanting more. You identify with his characters and want to live their amazing lives. Unfortunately this biography was nothing like Dahl's stories. Somehow Donald Sturrock was able to take the life story of a very interesting man ...more
Theresa
What I love about biographies is the tiny glimpse you get of the author as a person and not necessarily a writer (for the most part I only read the biographies of writers, I don't know why). For that reason I prefer to read them after the subject has already died :-) Dahl was an intriguing character-bigger than life at times, and incredibly, horrifically petty at others. I guess these biographies help remind me to not place my writer idols on a pedestal-they are only human and have the same foib ...more
Douglas Tatelman
This book has monopolized my reading for the past month. But well worth the time.

The biography itself is very well researched and well written. Facts and anecdotes and snippets of correspondence are weaved together into a real work of the highest quality, a fascinating story.

As to the man himself. How do you judge a life? Yes he could be very mean, but his life was not immune from horrible tragedies and challenges. Is the measure of a man the incredible life affirming written works, the tenacity
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Joy
Very interesting book I listened to on tape. I ended up appreciating a lot more about Dahl than my previous knowledge allowed. He had a varied life in World War II aeriel combat and espionage, diplomatic jobs, and family tragedies that were covered in detail. One thing that stood out was his love for his children and ability to entertain them with stories. His description of what makes good children's literature was wonderful: "Children loved being spooked; they love surprises, action, ghosts, t ...more
Bridget
This is a great and detailed look at a fascinating author. My only quibble is that it is SO detailed. As in, every detail. ALL of them. Together. Which can be useful, but is also a bit of a slog to get though at times. It took me ages to finish, even though it was an interesting story, and I'm pretty sure that is solely because there were days where I was reading only about a family member's health issues. Which is relevant to the overarching story, but not always riveting in the moment.
Jeffrey
Tossing and tumbling through this book, I felt as if I had journeyed with the amazing author, crashing my plane into the Moroccan desert, stumbling through my first novels and playing the intellectual bully. Clocking in at over 800 pages, this does not appear to be a quick read, but it was surprisingly light and lively reading!
Keiran Broadhurst
I loved this book. It took me quite some time, not just because of its length but because one, I'm a huge fan of Dahls and want to know more about the man behind the stories; two, because I am an enthusiastic writer and want to learn something and gain some understanding of a writer’s life; three, because this man had quite an extraordinary life and his character, although not always likeable adds to the story. Yes, story. This Biography is a story about an unusual character who is kind, generou ...more
localfreak
I love biographies, but I'm also leery of them particularly when they are about authors I like and I already knew, before reading, that Dahl had a little bit of a reputation of being 'not as nice a man as his children's books' - but then again, I've always thought, who truly could say the same about themselves? This book was very detailed and thorough (sometimes to the point of getting a bit muddling in the details) but overall I thought a very good portrayal of Roald Dahl that was ultimately a ...more
Elizabeth
As someone who grew up reading Dahl's books for children, I'm sure I'm not alone in having always imagined him as the BFG. While the BFG (and other characters) has many traits of Dahl himself, I was surprised at some of the other elements of Dahl's character which became apparent on reading this very thorough biography.

In a nutshell, I couldn't quite lose the feeling, while reading each chapter, that Dahl was a somewhat unpleasant person. His attitudes to others were at times downright nasty. Th
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Theresa

An extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life on his own terms. He never intended to be a children's literature writer, however it was what he eventually became, and he transformed the genre of children's fiction. He really wanted to be a writer of adult fiction, respected in literary circles. He wrote short stories and movie scripts, most of which were rejected as too grotesque for general readers of magazines like "The New Yorker". Initially charming and charismatic, he would eventua
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Bradley
Brilliant biography of Roald Dahl’s incredible life. This book works as the definitive Dahl biography for a number of reasons: Donald Sturrock knew Dahl personally so has a good insight into the man himself, the author had access to the Dahl library (including letters) so is able to probe many details that would not have been apparent to typical biographers, and Sturrock doesn’t skimp on the detail (for the most part), good or bad. The absolute best thing about this book is Sturrock referencing ...more
Richard Irvine
Having read all of Dahl's autobiographical work (Boy, Going Solo, that How I Became A Writer bit in Henry Sugar), it was eye opening to read his biography.

Sturrock had access to Dahl's remaining family, and more importantly, his archives. Most of the real action in Dahl's life took place when he was tucked away in a caravan by himself with a blanket and a heater, writing his wonderful stories, for adults, then for children.

When not in his caravan, he looked after his family, took a keen intere
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Michelle
In this extensive biography of Roald Dahl, we learn about the man behind a collection of fantastic children's books. The book details his early work in the realm of adult fiction, his time as a war pilot and the plane accident that nearly killed him, through his two marriages and the birth of his children.The book also discusses his Norwegian heritage and how it influenced his life and writing. Roald experienced many tragedies in his life, losing one child to measles, and almost losing another t ...more
LauraJane
I read James and the Giant Peach seven times when I was in second grade.
I have since read (and re-read) every one of his books for children.
The the very first day I ever read the newspaper, when I was nine I found his obituary.
And I cried. For a long time.

Dahl had a huge impact on my formative reading years, I had every reason to be excited about this new biography.

Donald Sturrock had unparalleled access to Dahl's letters, private files, and family members for this biography and, boy oh boy,
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Rachel
I heard about this book on NPR, and I LOVE Dahl, both his macabre adult stories and his quirky, well-beloved children's books, but I didn't know much about the man's life. Now I can say that I know a lot about his childhood, his romantic interludes, his relationship with mentors, and his pugnacious relationship with publishers, editors and agents. There are two main problems with the book, in my opinion. One: it is too long, with too many quotes from letters and interviews that add nothing to th ...more
Leslie Johnson
I sure know a whole lot more about Roald Dahl!
From simply being a looming character who brought forth some of my favorite stories growing up, the Roald Dahl I know of now is more real, but not any less extraordinary.

Anyone who picks this up will, I'm sure, begin this 600 page saga hoping very much to like the man its about, and, with a few bumps in the road, they'll not be disappointed. Roald Dahl led an exciting life, but he was by no means perfect. I liked reading of his strong personality,
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Melissa
I have always been a huge fan of Roald Dahl, but after reading his biography I am even more in awe of the author that he was. Here are a few of the fascinating things I learned about him:
- He hobnobbed with Vice President Wallace and even visited Hyde Park with President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- He had many illicit affairs with older women when he was in his twenties
- He wrote the screen play for the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice"
- He was a British spy
- He was married to a famous American a
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Theresa L. Stowell for TeensReadToo.com

Anyone who has loved Roald Dahl's quirky voice in books like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, THE BFG, or THE WITCHES will enjoy this biography of the classic children's author. Sturrock captures Dahl's life from childhood through war service to his romantic liaisons and his brilliant literary career. This biography uses sources that have not been previously accessed, and as a result, the volume is richer, fuller, and more comprehensive than o
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Brett Adams
I find I read biographies with the same bad habit that afflicts my daily life--a readiness to judge a person in the whole based on an instance of behaviour or speech. It's an entrenched habit that only grace will erode (but that's another story).

In the case of Donald Sturrock's "Storyteller: The life of Roald Dahl" that bad habit could lead to neurological trauma. Let me explain…

If it's a biography's job to distil the essence of man, his life, almost as an argument made, then this book fails. Be
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Barb
For an authorized biography, this book does a good job of showing both the good and the not-so-good sides of Roald Dahl. Even had Dahl not become a bestselling, beloved children's author, his life would have been a fascinating one. Poor in Britain to Norwegian parents, he flew a fighter pilot in the early days of World War II, was a spy in Washington for the remainder, married a famous actress, and helped pioneer medical advances after tragedy struck his own family.

Sturrock doesn't hesitate to s
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