The wonderful story of Henry Sugar and six more, by Roald Dahl

You just have to love Roald Dahl. Anyone who names his car (a Wolseley) The hard black slinker, obviously has a sense of humour. As a namer of cars myself, I really appreciate this. I’m thinking of stealing this name not for my next car, but for my next cat.  Imagine the looks on the neighbours’ faces when puss gets called inside for supper of a night.

The first thing I should really be saying, though, is that this book, although dedicated to teens, is a wonderful read for adults too. My brother gave it to me when I was in my early 20’s, and despite being a big fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was, admittedly, skeptical. I’ve just finished re-reading it recently, 20 + years down the track, and it’s still brilliant.

The wonderful story of Henry Sugar takes up a fair chunk of space in the book, coming in at 68 pages, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of space to cram in the other six. Size being no measure of greatness, though, each is highly individual and packs a most entertaining punch.

The first story describes an interesting relationship between a young boy and a gargantuan turtle, captured by fisherman and sold to a local West Indian hotel as a potentially new and exciting turtle-saturated menu. The boy has quite the menagerie at home and can talk to all of them. When he discovers the fate of the turtle he goes quite ballistic, causing quite a ruckus on the beach, but what eventuates at the story’s end is typical Dahl – quite bizarre and absolutely delightful.

Another story concerns the Mildenhall Treasure which is on display at the British Museum in London. Dahl gives us the fascinating inside story of its discovery in an ordinary field in Suffolk. Gordon Butcher, a local farmer ploughing a field for another landowner with the help of his so-called friend, Ford, unearthed 33 pieces of Roman silver dating back to the 4th century A.D. The most impressive was an intricately designed silver dish measuring 24 inches across. It’s breathtaking to see. Check it out at this website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_prb/t/mildenhall_treasure_great_dish.aspx

The wonderful story of Henry Sugar tells the tale of a self-absorbed, English prat; a member of the idle rich; a fop. Dahl describes his transformation from prat to anonymous and generous philanthropist. His journey there is most interesting, involving the theft of a book followed by years of training in the art of yoga – not the exercise-type yoga, but the mind control-type yoga.

So, if you’re an adult, don’t be fooled into thinking that Roald Dahl is just for the kids. He’s written many books that target adult audiences and this book of marvelous short stories is certainly among them.

Cheers

Rosemary

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