Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

Yesterday evening on the bus I fulfilled a long ago wish. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of those books that I just missed out on reading while growing up. Amidst all the Enid Blytons and the Arabian Nights and Puffin's Children's Classics, this one remained a book "that I should definitely read at least this year." Probably for the first time in a while I wasn't grumpy or irritated when I stepped off the bus after a two hour journey through an absolutely smog filled city. No. I was in chocolate land. And I am guilty of buying a bar of twix on my way home. Or two.

There is nothing new that I can say about Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that hasn't already been said. Everyone knows that he is a master story spinner and that this book is his best loved, probably ahead even of Matilda or the Fantastic Mr.Fox. I do not claim to review his book here nor am I going to analyze the storyline. I am simply going to gape slack-jawed and open mouthed at the fact that something he wrote years and years ago for children has that power to keep an adult (or semi-adult as the case may be :-]) agog till the last line. I have never believed in grown-ups phoo-phooing children's stories on the grounds that they have outgrown them long ago. Because no matter how many Sidney Sheldons or Dan Browns you might read, how big a fan of literary fiction or the classics you might be, what's the point if you are not able to appreciate a little Velveteen Rabbit or Scheherazade or Charlie Bucket every now and then?

I loved everything; I loved Grandpa Joe and Grandma Joe ( I found Grandpa and Grandma Geroge a little wimpy); I adored the huge bedstead that all the four grandparents shared; poor tired Mrs.Bucket who tries to slip her share of the meal to Charlie and poor tired Mr.Bucket with his "Cripes!" And then there is Willy Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas and the chocolate river and the snozzberries and the rainbow drops and the wriggle toffees and a million other chocolates (all that I want to list but won't in fear of irritating my readers further). And most of all there is Charlie; Charlie wins you over completely even before the story begins. I blame it on Mr.Dhal. How can you not love Charlie with an introduction like this one?

There are five children in this book:
Augustus Gloop - A greedy boy
Veruca Salt - A girl who is spoiled by her parents
Violet Beauregarde - A girl who chews gum all day long
Michael Teavee - A boy who does nothing but watch television
Charlie Bucket - The Hero

See what I mean? You stand no chance. It's a simple world, Mr.Wonka's. In his world, the good get rewarded, the bad get punished, the Oompa-Loompas sing songs about it and everything turns out alright in the end. "They all just come out of the wash in the end; they always do." I used to love Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree stories and Hogsmeade and the Weasley Twins' goodies from Harry Potter but this book took the chocolate/sweet fantasy to a whole new level. Mr.Dahl has influenced and taught generations of children how to dream and to imagine and that is no simple thing. A word for Quentin Blake: his illustrations brought the book alive and I enjoyed the story twice as much because of them. I am going to save the epithets beecause Mr.Dahl has received them all. Instead, I am just going to say that yesterday he gave me a gift that I don't come by too often. He made me feel five years old again.


Mrs. B. said...

Just read this recently to my 4-year-old and he loved it! My review is here:

Whitney said...

I loved Roald Dahl growing up reading James and the Giant Peach until it was in taters. I'm not sure what made it stand out for me, maybe it was the oversized bugs.

I'm so glad you got the opportunity and enjoyment of reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book too. But my personal favorite is the BFG, you should read it if you haven't already have.

Priya Iyer said...

I have heard of this story so much, I don't know how I never read it. :( I am gonna check it out NOW!! Thanks for the brilliant review!!

BTW I loved the Faraway Tree series too.. :)

Bedazzled said...

somehow i also missed out on this book when i was a child.. sounds like a fun read !

Vaishnavi said...

Mrs. B - I am glad your boy loved the book. I remember reading your review long ago actually, I had commented on it :)

Whitney - That is exactly it. He makes you feel so warm and fuzzy. I haven't read James and the Giant Peach but I am thinking of buying it as nice indulgent birthday gift to myself this weekend.

Priya - Thanks so much. Read it, I am sure you will love it!

Bedazzled - Yes, it is an absolute fun really should try it :)