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Claire 1st February 2006 04:12 PM


This is the first volume of Roald Dahl's autobiography - although he makes a big point of saying that it's not an autobiography, because they're boring, but it's just a few things that happened to him that he remembered well and thought were interesting.


I was nervous that it would be a bit boring compared to the magic of his books, but it was very good indeed. My only complaint was that it wasn't nearly long enough. I finished it in less than two hours and wished it was about 10 times the length. I look forward to reading the second (and third?)


Has anyone else read this?


And can anyone recommend a decent biography? I'd be interested to read more about him from a different perspective.


It occurs to me that autobiography isn't a genre of book that gets written for child readers. I wonder why that is? And does it matter? This is probably the first book I've come across that would fit that category.


Cathy 2nd February 2006 10:01 AM


Have you read Going Solo ? It follows on from Boy, can't remember enjoying it as much but I do remember his account of photographing the seven wonder of the world from the air and delivering oil for Shell in Africa.


Claire 2nd February 2006 05:57 PM


I haven't read it yet - but I intend to as soon as I see if at the library. At the very end of Boy, he'd just started working for Shell.


Flingo 2nd February 2006 07:06 PM


All the biographies I can think of are aimed at children too. One of my favourites of these is the "Dead Famous" series one - Roald Dahl and his Chocolate Factory.


I read Boy and Going Solo many times during middle and upper school. I remember reading, very clearly, his descriptions of being caned at school, and later in GS his experiences in World War II. An incredible achievement to write an autobiography that appeals to children in this way.


To the list of other autobiography written for children, would "My Family and Other Animals" count as well?


Claire 5th February 2006 04:47 PM


I guess I'd be more interested in an "adult" biography, as I'm interested in the side of him that wrote the adult horror stories as well.


Yes, My Family and Other Animals probably counts as child-friendly autobiography. I reckon I read it in my early teens or earlier. We all enjoyed the dramatisation of it over Christmas - and I remember enjoying the series a good few years ago, as well.


It's a shame there aren't more. There's something very compelling about the idea "This is a True Story, it Happened to Me and I'll Tell You about it". Straight biography doesn't grab you in the same way.

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Thanks for the recommendation, nigelwyn. Good to have you join us :wavey:


Can you say a bit more about "Unimagined"? When and where is it set? Do you think it would appeal to child readers, as well as being about a childhood?


Thanks - look forward to hearing a bit more about it,



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I wonder if I might take the liberty of telling you about Unimagined, as I am the author of the book.


Unimagined is about my life growing up in London and Scotland in the 60s, 70s and 80s – through school, university and into my first job. Although it is ostensibly about ‘a Muslim boy’, it is 90% about ‘just a boy’. One of my (white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian) colleagues read it and said that he could identify with most of it from his own experiences and additionally found the Islamic thread very informative. Someone else commented, “We are all Imran Ahmad”, which was an extremely kind thing to say.


When we are growing-up, life is a series of academic years punctuated by summer holidays. I am extremely fortunate that my birthday was in early September, so I have structured the book as one chapter per year of life, always beginning around my birthday.


The book is written in the present tense, giving a sense of immediacy throughout, and the narrative voice is always that of the boy at that specific age – his inner dialogue, fears, misconceptions – rather than of a grown-up writer looking back with hindsight.


From what I have been told, the book is fascinating for children (around 11+) as well as adults. There is no overt violence and sex is only blurrily alluded to. (Three occurrences of foul language have been blanked out, and there are two occurrences of the word ‘shit’, appropriate in the context.)


The narrative covers such themes as the need to belong, bullying, insecurity, confusion, friendship, exams, the opposite sex and so on, but is generally considered to be upbeat and apparently very funny. (I say ‘apparently’ because the memories are still excruciatingly embarrassing to me.)


This very kind book lover gave a wonderful analysis:




All of the reviews and details are on the book’s website:




I do hope that you will consider reading Unimagined and will enjoy it.


Best regards,


Imran Ahmad



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Hi Imran!


Good of you to join us and give such a detailed response to Claire's question. I'm sure there are many on BGO who will be interested by your book.


I hope you'll be able to stick with us, though, and contribute to other areas of the site. An author's perspectives are always to be welcomed in our discussions about books!

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