Ronald Dahl, most famous for his best selling children's books, was born in Wales in 1916 and died in Oxford in 1990.
As Jeremy Treglown in his very well done Roald Dahl A Biography shows us Dahl, at six foot five, was a larger than life figure. He served with served with great valor as a fighter pilot in W W Two, being awarded the Distinquished Flying Cross. He began to write short stories based on his experiences. By good luck, he was assigned to Washington DC and began to meet lots of important people. Dahl could be very charming and had a strrong mutual attraction to women. Even when married to a woman of stunning beauty, the American actress Patricia Neal with whom he had four children, he still had multiple affairs.
Treglown details his career. Dahl began to work as a screen play writer for Hollywood. He develops relationships with major publishers. Dahl could be difficult and expected to be idolized and could be surly if he felt he was neglected. He was a decent father.
There was an aspect of the life of Dahl I found hard to understand. His wife, who earned very big money from her movies, had a stroke. Dahl pushed her very hard to recover, hiring
full time therapists. I wondered was this done from love or to bring in the large sums she could earn.
Dahl was anti-Semetic. Treglown seems to try to brush this off by saying it was as a common attitude in upper class British society of the period but I lost a good bit of respect for Dahl when I read some of the quoted remarks, He was also very anti-Zionist and anti-Isreal.
As Dahl switched to children's books, he became a tremendous success. Treglown details the plots of the books and places them in the context of the times and events in Dahl's life. We learn a lot about the business side of being a best selling writer.
Treglown talks about his relationships with his daughters. Like many a father, he was vocal about his disapproval of their boyfriends.
Dahl began to make millions. He was very generous with his money to his extended families and many charities. He especially supported organizations that encouraged children to read.
Dahl felt he was a great writer and felt he deserved to be knighted and resented that this never happened.
Dahl had a unique gift for producing stories that would entrance children.
Treglown's biography is a first rate work. It is a social history of an era, not just a biography.
Jeremy Treglown (b. 1946) is a British literary historian and biographer. He served as editor of the Times Literary Supplement through the 1980s. He is a senior research fellow of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and emeritus professor of English and comparative literary studies at the University of Warwick. Treglown’s biographies include Franco’s Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936, V. S. Pritchett: A Working Life, Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green, and Roald Dahl: A Biography.