George’s Marvellous Medicine, by Roald Dahl

February 2, 2012 at 01:49 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Comedy, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , )


One of Roald Dahl’s shortest children’s books, this can hardly be described as a complex story. Like many of his classics, the accusation could be very fairly made that he planned poorly, and relied on his peerless descriptive prowess to see him through; that he made things up as he went along, and truncated storylines when he ran out of ideas.

This book is split into three parts: the description of a dreadful life that Dahl did so well as to become a staple in subsequent children’s literature, a fabulous exploration of the medicine’s manifold and imaginitive ingredients, and then finally (and most confusingly) a series of descriptions about the medicine’s effects.

The first two parts are performed (if not masterfully) then to satisfaction. George’s life is not so magnificently written as Charlie Bucket’s or James Trotter’s, but it is classic Dahl. The creation of the potion is not so pregnant with excitement and magic as Danny and his father scraping together the ingredients for downing a flock of pheasants, but there is the same lyrical madness as some of Dahl’s poetry, and it makes for fun reading. Even the ending, the final part of the book, is not all bad. It is simply not Dahl’s best work. He seems unable or unwilling to finish a thought, and consequences (when they do happen) happen all in a rush and a tumble, and are a little anticlimactic in nature.

“The old hag opened her small wrinkled mouth, showing disgusting pale brown teeth.”

-George’s Marvellous Medicine

Attention must also be given to Roald Dahl’s description of George’s grandmother. Never one to censor his bile, it would be foolish to expect this writer who made his name writing violent and graphic stories to shirk his duty here. But the descriptions of the old hag are a little sharper and a little more bitter than in some of the other books. There is a little less fantasy and a slightly more disturbing result, and combined with the much weaker story, these problems aggregate to leave us with a wry and entertaining but ultimately unpalatable story.


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Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl

July 27, 2010 at 18:51 (Book Reviews, Children's Books, Fiction, Highly Rated Books) (, , , )


This is Roald Dahl’s best work. It could easily be titled after the final chapter; “My Father” – and yet the title reflects the warmth and affection of Danny’s dad towards him, for it is Danny who is declared to be the champion. This is a book about a widower raising a child under trying circumstances and loving his son well, and unconditionally.

The questionable life of Danny’s dad and the induction of Danny into the world of poaching is not a postmodern message of liberal and subjective morality, but rather Roald Dahl’s recurring conceit that rules are to apply for most of the time, and that when the occasion arises to break them, honesty and selflessness and truthfulness remain cardinal. The loss of the fruits of their poaching is no setback, but simply the end of one adventure and the beginning of the next; Danny is not thrilled and excited because of the pheasants, but because of his quite wonderful father.

The story is elegant and precise, and Dahl is not afraid to leave its track for a while and pursue quite irrelevant incidentals, while fleshing out the abiding impression that Danny’s life is simple, poor and utterly wonderful. Even the disastrous episode at school is a story about loyalty and fearlessness in the face of bullying and aggression.

Through his compendium of marvellous stories, Roald Dahl shows children wild and fabulous places where they can escape. In Danny the Champion of the World, he shows children a picture of honest and powerful fatherly love. Danny needs neither giants nor peaches; neither magic nor mysterious worlds. The world he inhabits is wonderful enough, and his father more fantastic than any magical benefactor.

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