“I am glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself… I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you with his mouth but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phoney.” (Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl)
Upon hearing the author of this book, you might expect certain magical events to start occurring about three pages in, but Danny manages to create the atmosphere of magic and wonder without the slightest use of the stuff. This book is, in very broad terms, a coming of age through hunting story (ala Faulkner), but it is so cloaked with Dahl’s particular sense of humor and delight that you hardly notice that dull underlying theme at all.
After having read so much of Dahl these past six months, I can clearly identify two absolutely essential plot points that happen nearly every novel. The first all-important moment is the identification of the nasty person as inexcusably bad; the second is the plot to bring down said person – usually in a creative way no one expects, even the reader. If only ‘bad’ people were so easy to label in real life, and so fun to punish! As with all of his works, Danny leaves you with an overwhelming feeling that all is right with the world – mean people always have their vanity pulled down, and the good ones get a beautiful roast pheasant and a new electric stove.
Beverage: This book absolutely must be accompanied by hot chocolate – preferably cheap swiss miss mix sipped out of your only tin mug, which will taste like heaven because you’re reading Danny.
Reminds me of… In terms of Dahl, this book really stands out for its lack of magic and the supernatural. It really does remind me of a delightfully childish take of Faulkner.