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Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl: Roald Dahl [Hardcover]

Donald Sturrock
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2010

The authorised biography of one of the greatest storytellers of all time.
"Irresistible. I thought I knew quite a lot about Roald Dahl, but now I know much much more. Donald Sturrock's book lucidly describes a complicated life and relates it to the richness of Dahl's storytelling."Quentin Blake

Roald Dahl is one of the greatest storytellers of all time. He pushed children's literature into uncharted territory and almost twenty years after his death his popularity continues to grow - worldwide sales of his books have now topped 100 million. The man behind the stories, however, remains an enigma. Dahl was a single-minded adventurer, an eternal child, and his public persona was often controversial.

To his readers, Dahl was always a hero and his stories have had an impact on the lives and imaginations of generations of children. Since his death his reputation has been transformed. Critics now too celebrate his wild imagination, quirky humour and linguistic elegance; figures like Willy Wonka, the BFG and the Grand High Witch are immortal literary creations.

In this masterly biography, Donald Sturrock reveals many hitherto hidden aspects of Roald Dahl's life: his terrifying experiences as a fighter pilot; the mental anguish caused by the death of his seven-year-old daughter; his work for military intelligence at the end of the war and more. Written with exclusive access to his private papers and manuscripts as well as with reference to hundreds of newly-discovered letters, Dahl lives on every page of this utterly compelling book, which reveals the man as we've never seen before.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition, First Impression edition (2 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007254768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007254767
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

“It’s a measure of the greatness of this biography that Sturrock is able to get behind these fantasies and exaggerations without losing respect or sympathy for Dahl….There are big gaps between Dahl’s masterpieces….a real joy of this book is that they show just how much work went into those slim volumes, and how much depended on a series of brilliant editors” The Times by Frank Cottrell Boyce

“This is his first biography and it is hard to see how he could have done it better. At all times he is able to view Dahl from within and without - as he saw himself and as others saw him – and to explain the divide... Dahl’s life is a biographer’s dream…full of drama, both comical and romantic and, sometimes, desperately tragic… For all his faults... there was something magnificently bullish about Roald Dahl, a childlike refusal to accept the world as it was. Donald Sturrock captures this side of him beautifully, so much so that I finished STORYTELLER feeling... his was a heroic life” Mail on Sunday by Craig Brown

”Pig-headed, domineering, mendacious, boastful, foul-mouthed, coarse, boorish--as you tick off the adjectives that describe Roald Dahl, the chances of a biographer coming up with a winning portrait seem slim. Yet Donald Sturrock has managed it with zest and aplomb. What shines out from almost every page of this intimately informed biography is Dahl’s vitality, courage and passion for life…What he was was vivid and dynamic, and this vivid, dynamic book gives you the illusion that you knew him”. Sunday Times by John Carey

”It’s hard to imagine anyone do a better job on him than Donald Sturrock… consistently shrewd, well able to embrace his subject’s many contradictions, generally sympathetic and yet never blind to Dahl’s less attractive side… it’s exemplary” Daily Mail by John Preston


‘Diabolically readable! Donald Sturrock-a goodhearted Charlie with the keys to the factory well in hand-makes lucky ticketholders of us all, revealing from deep within this exotic, guarded, often painful life the conjuring triumphs and dark tragedies of the 20th century's most wonderfully wicked storyteller.’ -David Michaelis, author of Schulz and Peanuts

‘Storyteller is a real liability if you have anything resembling a busy schedule. It hooks you from its opening sentence and before you know it you're up to your armpits in stories about spies and foxes and movie stars and you don't want to tear yourself away. As engrossing as only the best biographies can be.’ -Tom Shone

‘The person I met when I met Roald Dahl comes through vividly on the pages of Storyteller. Dahl told me that he was generally disappointed in what people wrote about him, but I believe he would have appreciated Donald Sturrock's beautifully written book.’ Charlotte Chandler

‘Irresistible. I thought I knew quite a lot about Roald Dahl, but now I know much much more. Donald Sturrock's book lucidly describes a complicated life and relates it to the richness of Dahl's storytelling.’ Quentin Blake, illustrator

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Authoritative ROALD DAHL Biography 14 Sep 2010
Donald Sturrock has penned an immensely enjoyable and readable account of Roald Dahl's life. Comparisons with Jeremy Treglown's biography are inevitable, and the two books rarely differ in their telling of the earlier part of Dahl's life. To my mind, the key difference is that Sturrock has benefited from extensive access to the Dahl family's archives and so his portrait of Dahl's postwar career (until his marriage) is rather fuller than Treglown's, as is his account of the final years of Dahl's life.

This biography has a pleasing tendency to focus on unraveling Dahl's complex (and misunderstood) character using Dahl's archival sources, rather than Treglown's preponderance of 'non-Dahl' sources. Dahl seems to have been somewhat impenetrable to the outsider, and so Sturrock should be commended for the readability and clarity of his work.

Storyteller will become the definitive account of Roald Dahl's life. Some will argue that this being the 'official' biography makes it one-sided or unreliable, but the cooperation of the Dahl family undoubtedly strengthens the credibility of some of Sturrock's descriptions, whilst he is unafraid of highlighting Dahl's hypocrises, temper, lack of sentimentality alongside his talent for writing, his understanding of a child's mentality, his philanthropy and his role as a family man. All in all, a wonderful read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warts and all 6 Oct 2010
By Brim
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Who doesn't like a good thick door-stop of a literary biography?

This is one an absorbing and a useful corrective to Dahl's own highly distorted, but entertaining, autobiographical 'Boy' and 'Going Solo'. As I understand it there was a lapse of 16 years between this biography being started, set aside and then picked up again by Stewart Thurrock who already knew Dahl well. In that time no doubt some witnesses to Dahl's life had passed on. Fortunately he managed to talk to Dahl's first wife, the oscar winning film star Patricia Neal before she herself passed away shortly before the book went to print.

News to me was Dahl's wartime and post-war 'sexploits' among the rich and famous in Washington DC and New York as was the 'curse' that his family, he thought, lived under. I was a little surprised that his involvement in Anglia TV's 'Tales of the Unexpected' merited barely two lines when for many of us it was our first introduction to the author. That niggle aside this book will remain Dahl's definitive biography. Buy it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and honest. 15 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having recently taught some of Roald Dahl's work to Year 7 pupils, I was already interested before even opening the book. Dahl frequently comes across as flawed, but this is redeemed by other aspects of his personality, and I had no idea his life had been marred by such tragedies as are detailed here. The book held my attention, and, in my opinion, is very well written. To be recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dahl -- A Titanic Life Force 10 Dec 2010
Do the lives of creative geniuses need a biography to bring them to life when their creations speak directly to us? In the case of Donald Sturrock's Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, the answer is a big Yes. Dahl's life story would need telling even if his only story had been his life. It was a huge, extraordinay life -- piloting a Hurricane in the blue skies above Athens as the city fell to the Germans; deciding whether to live or die as he fought his way out of the burning cockpit of his crashed Gladiator in the North African desert; a British spy in wartime Washington DC intriguing with the Roosevelts and bedding a string of glamorous women; married to the film star Patricia Neal whose career declined as his took off. Dahl was a huge life force. He bullied Neal into recovery after she suffered a serious stroke. After his infant son suffered terrible injuries to his head, he defied the medical technology of the day to help invent a better valve to drain fluid from his brain. The loss of his favourite daughter was recorded in a note-book with the cold-eyed objectivity of the writer he was. Few books are as successful as drawing the reader into the creative mind as does Storyteller, Sturrock believing that the crash in Africa jolted Dahl's creativity into his consciousness. Sturrock takes the reader into Dahl's hut where he faced the blank page, heated by a bare electric bar, consuming chocolate bars (the dates of their creation, Dahl thought, were much more important than those of kings and queens). And like the best story tellers, this life moves without being hurried and intelligently and sympathetically probes without indulging in psychobabble. A fantastic book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Chaucer
This is a very good biography particularly as Sturrock has to strike a careful balance: Dahl is not an easy person to write about and he certainly offended people in his time. Also, Surrock does write this biography with the family's blessing as it were. This is a real strength of the book as he quotes much of Dahl's own words from letters to close friends and family and these are deftly inserted into the narrative. Sturrock does capture Dahl's idiosyncracies and contradictions well, brings him alive indeed and does take the reader into his magical world, an "incredible place." Much of this is very moving, particularly the end of the book. There is also much in here to interest a general reader as Dahl's writing seems a relatively small and private part of his life - he had such energy for other interests. Why not a five star review then you cry? It is overlong and I thought the quarrels with editors and publishers could have been slimmed down especially as I was never very sure who did what in publishing terms. This was not terribly interesting and didn't shed much additional light on Dahl's character after the intitial round of hostilities he carried out at first as then a similar pattern was repeated in future negotiations. I would have also liked a list of all the people mentioned in the book and who they were to Dahl because names would often be dropped in suddenly or after a long absence. A family tree would also have been useful so we could keep track of all the members of the family particularly as there were several generations of Dahls and different marriages. However, well worth reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book which covers literally every single angle of this ...
Amazing book which covers literally every single angle of this most celebrated author. The honesty of the family shines through from the beginning which makes the story less... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Mr. C. Hewitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Roald Dahl my Hero...
His books should be thought in Schools... He tells story's that you can be lost in and often wonder if they couldn't become true one day... Read more
Published 11 months ago by belle
2.0 out of 5 stars boring
I love Roald Dahl but after a few chapters I was really bored with the book and I haven't finished it even though I've had it years. Read more
Published 15 months ago by martine ukpong
5.0 out of 5 stars thankyou
his was bought as a gift also and looked like the best on the market thank you very much indeed
Published 18 months ago by louisebrandwood
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for anyone interested in the man.
Been waiting for it to come out in paperback and here it is. It's going to be a long read but so far so good.
Published 23 months ago by ADS
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting character
A good and fascinating read, telling you a great deal more about this eccentric and talented writer with unexpected sides to his character.
Published on 8 Feb 2012 by Flora
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched but...
I'm raining on the parade but despite all the plaudits it's received, I can't help thinking this biography has been written by someone with little love or understanding of... Read more
Published on 17 Oct 2011 by T. Bently
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex contradictory Dahl brilliantly revealed
Roald Dahl children's book threw open the barn doors and released many of the taboos of post war children's writing. Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2011 by Steven Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars good bye roald dahl!
this book surprised me, it taught me things i didn't know. and some of it will stay with me for a long time. Read more
Published on 5 July 2011 by tim book 2
5.0 out of 5 stars Storyteller
Roald Dahl was a complex man, at times generous and humorous and at others cantankerous and difficult to deal with and this book explores all these sides of his character and... Read more
Published on 27 April 2011 by Spider Monkey
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