Without supplanting either Jeremy Treglown’s pioneering Roald Dahl: A Biography (1993) or Donald Sturrock’s authorized biography, Storyteller (2010) — both of which I recommend, especially the latter — this succinct new biography provides just enough information for all but the most ardent Dahl devotee.
Elegant but somewhat glancing ... Roald Dahl...may simply be too big to cancel ... Dennison recaps most of these extraordinary events without fuss, riffling carefully through letters, diaries and other volumes, from the looks of his endnotes, but conducting no fresh interviews; there are no new revelations that I can discern, but instead refined interpretation ... In Dennison’s telling, Dahl’s contradictions are beautifully illustrated but not particularly interrogated ... I think [Dahl] would have liked Dennison’s writing style, lush but clipped, with such phrases as 'the ubiquity of caprice' and 'buoyant with slang,' full of a reader’s zest. This is not a potted biography, but it is a politely pruned one, idealism washing over the ick.
After its treatment of Dahl’s childhood, Dennison’s biography becomes over-compressed ... It lacks the warm texture of Jeremy Treglown’s 1994 biography and doesn’t have any revelations. Yet it makes you feel grudging admiration for a bully whose self-belief was, in a way, heroic.