Boy: Tales of childhood

…by Roald Dahl.

‘Boy’ is about Roald Dahl’s childhood days in his own words. You might be wondering why I didn’t just say it’s an autobiography.That’s because of what Dahl himself said

An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details. This is not an autobiogrpahy.

Rather, the book is about events and incidents that occurred during Dahl’s childhood days and that were memorable to him. It starts with his parents, goes through his school days and ends with him getting his first job. There are some hilarious events such as when he put dead mouse in a sweet jar at a shop due to his dislike for the lady who owned the shop or when he faked appendicitis because he was homesick. He also talks about some troubling events such as the beatings he and others received at the hands of teachers throughout school life or when his nose was sliced in an accident or when he had his adenoids out without the use of anasthesia.

Dahl covers events from prep school through to boarding school and finally a public high school. While his boarding school days startout with a Blytonesque feel to them, they are anything but with the mean teachers and headmaster and a nasty Matron. He talks about his family and the holidays they had in Norway. He also describes his mother’s struggles following the death of his father when he was very young. Dahl manages to give readers an insight into why some of his characters are the way they are. The mean characters in particular seem to be inspired by some people he came in contact with. The events also explain how he may have got the ideas for his books and how this creative mind works.

All in all, even if Dahl may not call it an autobiography, it is an entertaining one! I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Advertisements

A Fortunate Life

…by A. B. Facey.

Albert Barnett Facey was born in 1894 in a small town in Victoria. When aged 2, his father died as a result of typhoid and two years later, his mother left Albert and his younger siblings in the care of their grandmother to be with her older children in Western Australia. When Albert was 5 and his Grandma was finding it difficult to make ends meet, she took Albert and his three older siblings Eric, Myra and Roy to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. Once there, they lived with their aunt and uncle as their mother had remarried and only took Myra with her.

Albert began working from the age of 8 and this involved him living with different families on their properties in rural W.A. He hardly ever lived with his family since then. During his time working, Albert was physically abused by one of the families to the point where he nearly died. The physical scars of this remained for the rest of his life and although Albert eventually escaped and reported this to the police, the abuser never came to justice. He spent a few years with decent families and earned his keep. As he grew older, his mother made contact but it appeared to be more for money. Albert had several jobs on farms, railways, ships and factories. He was also a professional boxer and a star shooter. Eventually, he went to fight in World War I at Gallipoli. Here, he lost two of his brothers Roy and Joseph and he himself was injured by a bomb exploding near him and was sent home to Australia severely ill.

Back in Australia, he met Evelyn Gibson and married her. They had 7 children and were married for 60 years until Evelyn died. During this time, Albert battled his illnesses, had jobs with the Tramway, learnt to read and write (as he had never had any formal schooling during his childhood), set up his own farm and also ran for MP and was part of unions. He also campaigned for improved conditions for returned servicemen. During World War II, Albert and Evelyn lost their oldest son.

I read the book as part of my book club but I must admit, the title always left me intrigued to want to read it when I saw it at the bookshop. This is one of the first autobiographies I’ve read that is not about someone I know and not a cricketer. And I must say, it was an interesting read.

It has been written in very simple language and has to be commended given that the author learnt to read and write only as an adult. While I did think initially, there were pages that dragged on and information that was not necessarily required, it still kept me going. I was fascinated by this man who led a bloody hard life and yet, was able to see how fortunate he was. Today, we have so much more than what he did and yet, all we do is whinge about what we don’t have. If anything, this book and his life give you insight into how to live. It is the relationships that matter. And despite having hard times, these do not necessarily determine your life. Facey could have complained about a zillion things. And yet, in the end, he talks about how fortunate he was. And that, is commendable.

I give it a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This has been cross-posted on my personal blog.

Words Can Describe

Quick Data

Author: Abi Grant

ISBN: 978-0-3350-51835-2

Price: . 285 INR

Abi Grant is a successful young television sketch show writer. One night she is attacked in her London flat, while she is sleeping, by a complete stranger-who had waited for her to come home from the theatre.

The attack-an attempted rape-was violent and terrifying. But Abi manages to fight back and escapes from her home and goes upstairs to her landlady.

Post this incident the nameless man-who broke into her home via a window-is not to be arrested for next 12 years. In this long duration Abi’s life collapses around her. She goes through a lot of ups and downs of life as well as the emotional trauma haunts her every now and then.It’s not the same again for her to sleep alone in her own house feeling safe and sleeping sound !

How does she copes up with all this ? What happens to the rapist? Does he get identified? Does Abi get justice?

The book is a piece by piece record of Abi’s life after this attack. A memoir of a sexual assault. What she goes through mentally, physically and financially. Though the novel’s storyline is intriguing and the quote on the book from ‘Coleen Nolen’ says “This is a book every woman should read”.  I personally felt that the book loses  its grip going forward. Slowly in the middle of the consequences Abi stops writing her story instead starts writing about the factors creating rape-culture, some digs at second wave-feminism et al. presenting unnecessary incidences which actually dilute the main plot. She also manages to write some humour in between the serious plot which sometimes is irrelevant to the mood.

Not that I don’t recommend reading this book. Just that it disappoints through the middle of it. Like you know there are books in which you can skip few chapters and still you can connect to the story line without even feeling that you’ve missed something important. That applies to this one. So don’t keep any high hopes.

It’s a onetime read- Words Can Describe is helpful for victims and survivors-who will feel less alone.It also provides a set of guidelines about how to cope up with the trauma without feeling guilty about being attacked and what to do or not to do. Of course it depends on case to case basis but it can be taken as a suggestive write-up for dealing with the trauma and stress and get back to normal life yet again.

My rating for this book is 3


Look me in the Eye: My life with Asperger’s

This is a book by John Elder Robison. An autobiographical book about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. The book appealed to me on two levels — it appealed to my love for reading and to my love for psychology.

First and foremost, for those that are not aware, let me explain to you what Asperger’s syndrome is. Individuals with Aspergers have significant difficulties in forming and developing appropriate social interactions, difficulties in communication skills and tend to have restrictive interests. This website has more information. Anyway, the best example I can provide about an individual with Aspergers syndrome would be Sheldon Cooper from the show ‘Big Bang Theory‘ (although, please note that not all individuals with Aspergers are geniuses!)

But I digress.

Going back to the book…it is a great insight into the life of someone with Aspergers. What makes it even more fascinating is that John Robison was not diagnosed until about the age of 40! The title of the book is because some individuals with Aspergers, like John, have difficulty maintaining eye contact when they speak to others…resulting in people telling them to “look me in the eye”.

Whilst growing up, John failed to understand why people didn’t understand him. Or why it was so difficult for him to make friends with kids his age. Or why people misunderstood him when he smiled at the fact that someone else met with an accident. Or why people and psychiatrists back then thought he was a psychopath in the making. John writes about his dysfunctional life — an alcoholic father, a mother with a mental illness, an abusive childhood, a dodgy therapist who was supposed to help the family, and a younger brother who back then to him, was a real pain.

John takes us through his journey as a child where he struggled to make friends but learnt around the age of 9 what was acceptable and what was not. (e.g. patting someone on the head was not acceptable or talking about your helicopter when they showed you their truck was not the etiquette). He takes us through his adolescent years where he dropped out of high school and got interested in electronics and cars, his misadventures with women, and his attempts to fit it. He takes us through his adult years where he formed relationships with women, worked with Pink Floyd briefly and the band KISS doing special effects for their live shows, getting a ‘stable’ job in the corporate world and finally ditching that to become his own boss at an automobile company.

It is a heartwarming book and you can literally see the struggles of a little boy who has no clue what’s going on with him. You feel uplifted when years later, this little boy finds out his diagnosis. And sees the light. And everything seems to make sense to him after 40 long years of struggle and compensation.

For me personally, given that I work with some teens with Aspergers, it was all the more insightful. It was life from their point of view. It also opens up the world of Aspergers to the population out there explaining everything in lay terms.

If you like autobiographical books and enjoy reading about overcoming hardships and a dysfunctional childhood, this book is worth a read. I rate it a 4

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

*****************************************************************************************************

I just want to take this opportunity to thank the lovely Titaxy for inviting me to be part of this venture and our bond with books. 🙂