Review of Going Solo by Roald Dahl

SFFaudio Review

Going SoloGoing Solo
By Roald Dahl; Narrated by Dan Stevens
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 26 September 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours, 38 minutes

Themes: / memoir / World War II / RAF / colonialism / growing up / snakes /

Publisher summary:

Going Solo is the action-packed tale of Roald Dahl’s exploits as a World War II pilot. Learn all about his encounters with the enemy, his worldwide travels, the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a plane accident, and the rest of his sometimes bizarre, often unnerving, and always colorful adventures. Told with the same irresistible appeal that has made Roald Dahl one of the world’s best-loved writers, Going Solo brings you directly into the action and into the mind of this fascinating man.

Going Solo is the gripping autobiographical follow-up to Roald Dahl’s Boy. Whereas Boy tells the story of Dahl’s childhood, this speaks of his time in Africa before the war began, and relays his participation in the RAF. Whereas Boy was an odd concoction of heartwarming sadness that kept me smiling throughout its duration, Going Solo is less amusing and more riveting as we, through Dahl’s eyes, witnessed death.

Dahl doesn’t squander his words. He draws vivid images with powerful verbs and bright adjectives. His sparing prose paints these vignettes so true that we squint for the dust, smell the oily flames, and feel the wind pressing us back.

Dan Stevens narrates this wonderful production from Penguin Audio. Stevens, as he did in Boy, becomes the voice of Roald Dahl. Both this production and the reading of Dan Stevens are beyond improvement. Thank you Penguin Audio, and thank you Dan Stevens.

I’m left feeling a profound sense of wonder. I was constantly forced to remind myself “this is true,” “this is not fiction.” We really do see an African lion carry off the cook’s wife. We really do see the illogical and stubborn face of war. I could go on and on. I could try to tell you how much this book deserves your attention. I could try and relate all the wondrous encounters with snakes or Dahl’s solitary conversation with giraffes. But at this point, you have a good sense as to whether you will or won’t read this. I hope you do. I hope you start with Boy and continue with Going Solo.

This may not be as incredible as Boy, but I don’t believe it’s meant to be. Our childhood is a time separated from adulthood, and should retain a special magic free of weighty responsibility. Oh! And you don’t need me to point out the obvious metaphor in “Going Solo” as it pertains to both flight and life, right? Good, I knew you caught that.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

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