Going Solo by Roald Dahl

… A review in conception…

Every now and again, I am motivated to write something bookish in one of my blogs and today is one of those occasions. Earlier this week, I was given a copy of Going Solo by Roald Dahl, by a friend who was returning home after a brief holiday and had no further use for the book. I first came across it a few weeks earlier, when my friend showed me a copy of the Thai version. Unlike English books, a lot of books in Thailand do not have a blurb on the back cover and so my friend, who is a big fan of Roald Dahl’s children’s stories and who reads both Thai and English fluently, was under the impression that it was just another such volume. It wasn’t until I mentioned that Roald Dahl had flown with the RAF during the Second World War that the penny dropped and we both realised that he had probably bought an autobiography.

And such was the case. But far from being disappointed, my friend absolutely loved the book and over the intervening weeks, he read both the Thai and English copies at the same time, using the latter to check the quality of the Thai translation.

Now I am going through the same process, albeit with the English version only; my Thai being almost non-existent, even after many years of visiting the so-called ‘Land of Smiles’.

Going Solo by Roald Dahl - Rob Gregory Author

Don’t let the uninspiring cover fool you. This is a fantastic book.

Going Solo chronicles the life of Roald Dahl as a young man. Dealing first with his time in Africa as an employee of the Shell Company and then with his exploits as a wartime fighter pilot, it is as much his simple method of storytelling as the various scenes that he depicts, which has, so far, made the book such an enjoyable read for me. At the time of writing, I’m just over halfway through but have been enthralled by his encounters with black and green mambas, the unusual breed of ‘caretaker’ expat that inhabited the far reaches of the Empire at that time and the rather laissez-faire attitude of the RAF to flying instruction in Africa.

One thing that stands out in the book, apart from Dahl himself, who was apparently six feet, six inches tall (not a good height for a fighter pilot), is the positivity with which his various adventures are described. Even when seriously injured in a night time plane crash, he recounts his subsequent recovery and the possibility of being rendered permanently blind, with an acceptance and good humour that is rarely found in our increasingly litigious society. There is also an honesty about the book, insofar as it is possible to be completely honest when recounting one’s own memories, which I have found endearing. Consequently, the young Dahl comes across as a very likeable character, with perhaps a touch of ‘Bertie Wooster’ about him, as he careens from scrape to scrape without a care in the world.

I would have loved there to have been a third part to his autobiographical series, which began with ‘Boy’, covering his experiences as one of the world’s favourite children’s authors, but alas this was not to be as Roald Dahl sadly died in 1990. So, I’m just going to have to content myself with finishing Going Solo and having been privileged to understand a little more about one of my childhood heroes.

If you’d like to read my full review of Going Solo then check out my author page on Goodreads in the next couple of weeks and don’t forget to spread the word about your favourite new author!