Format Hardcover
Publication Date 01/03/23
ISBN 9781639363322
Trim Size / Pages 8.25 x 5.5 in / 272

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Roald Dahl

Teller of the Unexpected: A Biography

Matthew Dennison

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

From one of our finest literary biographers comes a brilliant biography of Roald Dahl: the much-loved author and creator of countless iconic literary characters.

Roald Dahl was one of the world's greatest storytellers. He conceived his vocation as as that of any fearless explorer and, in his writing for children, he was able to tap into a child's viewpoint throughout his life. He crafted tales that were exotic in scenario, frequently invested with a moral, and filled with vibrant characters that endure in public imagination to the present day.

In this brand-new biography, Matthew Dennison re-evaluates the traditional narrative surrounding Dahl—that of school sporting hero, daredevil pilot, and wartime spy-turned-author—and examines surviving primary resources as well as Dahl's extensive literary output to tell the story of a man who identified as a rule-breaker, an iconoclast, and a romantic—both insider and outsider, war hero and child's friend.

Matthew Dennison is the author of five critically acclaimed works of non-fiction, including Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West, a Book of the Year in The Times, Spectator, Independent and Observer. He is a contributor to Country Life and lives in the United Kingdom.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Praise for Matthew Dennison:
“The third major biography of the children’s author stresses his tragedy-speckled life more than his often ugly behavior. In Dennison’s telling, the swashbuckling creator of Matilda and Willy Wonka was arrogant yet desperate for acclaim.” New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
“An elegant new biography. In Dennison’s telling, Dahl’s contradictions are beautifully illustrated. 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.” Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times Book Review
"Dennison’s account is sympathetic but honest, psychologically acute and insightful. It is, withal, a sad story but one that Dennison tells extremely well to his and Grahame’s credit.” Booklist
"Matthew Dennison’s gripping and consistently surprising biography of Kenneth Grahame ably explains how a stuffy bank clerk produced arguably the greatest children’s book ever written, The Wind in the Willows. Grahame’s was a life of tragedy from its beginning and a consequent retreat into private fantasy proved his imaginative salvation." The Guardian
"Potter is arguably the most popular English children’s book author of all time, and the subject of Matthew Dennison’s excellent short biography. The book is concise, brisk, and consistently interesting, offering just enough detail for most readers.” Michael Dirda, Barnes & Noble Review
"Dennison is the latest to turn the story of Beatrix Potter herself into a book. Indeed, Ms. Potter’s extraordinary life makes for an absorbing tale. Dennison ably tells about Potter’s cloistered childhood; about her determination to get published, and about her marriage to an attorney. Readers feel her passion for England’s beautiful Lake District, which became her home. There is much to like about Dennison’s version of Potter’s life. Dennison skillfully weaves Beatrix’s stories into every part of her narrative." Christian Science Monitor
"Lively and succinct. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Peter Rabbit and his friends should be intrigued to view them as the means by which Potter found her way out into the wider world." Booklist
"Potter described her stories as giving 'pleasure without ugliness.' The same can be said of this respectful biography." Kirkus Reviews
"Dennison makes strong connections between Potter’s life and themes in classic [Potter] titles. As an introduction to the life of Beatrix Potter, Dennison’s telling is more than adequate." Publishers Weekly