No one captured our imaginations as children in quite the way that Roald Dahl did. Classic after classic, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Matilda, filled our heads with the bizarre, the twisted, and the truth about the difficulties of youth. Mari Ness introduces you to Dahl’s highly improbably life in her introduction on Tor.com and moves on with the first reread: James and the Giant Peach.
“Dahl’s books also often reflect some of the anxieties of the 20th century — sometimes blatantly,” writes Ness, “as when the Americans are convinced that the giant peach of James and the Giant Peach is a giant bomb that will destroy New York, or in the conversations with the President of the United States in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, or subtly, as in the concerns with unemployment, labor issues and immigration in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Get started on this Roald Dahl Reread: Now This is How to Do Transatlantic Travel: James and the Giant Peach
“James and the Giant Peach begins in sudden, shocking tragedy, as young James Henry Trotter loses his parents to a rampaging rhinoceros,” writes Ness. “(Strikingly unusual deaths would remain a characteristic of Roald Dahl’s work, perhaps to assure children that this was very unlikely to happen to them. I’m not sure how successful this was as a literary technique: I still keep a wary eye out when rhinoceroses are around.)”