Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Coming in at #35 on the BBC Big Read list and the highest placed Roald Dahl title is the much loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is definitely a book of my childhood.
Even better, our Classics Book Group elected to choose this as the Children's Classic choice for April. The reason? Easter falls in April, and everybody should read about chocolate as well as eating buckets of the stuff. In fact it is impossible to move for Easter eggs at the moment, and as well as opening something vaguely book shaped on Easter Sunday, I will be hoping for an egg shaped something as well......made of chocolate in case my husband does indeed just present me with an egg. Back to the chocolate!
The famous story of Charlie Bucket and his Golden Ticket, and Willy Wonka and his amazing chocolate factory. Mr Willy Wonka, the most wondrous inventor in the world, opens his gates of his amazing chocolate factory to five lucky children. Gobstoppers, wriggle sweets and a river of melted chocolate delight await - Charlie needs just one Golden Ticket and these delicious treats could all be his.
I really do find it astonishing that this book was published in 1964 as it definitely feels much later. As I said in my preamble, this was a book in my childhood. I can still picture the purple cover with a massive chocolate-making machine on it, surrounded by the golden ticket winners. But the novel has endured right up to present day, with Roald Dahl novels still being a core staple of any bookshop.
The story is marvellous, and has a lovely hero Charlie Bucket, who lives in poor conditions with his mother, father, and 4 elderly grandparents, all surviving on cabbage soup and a slice of bread and margarine. The family is so sweet. Charlie insists on sharing his annual bar of chocolate with his family and when Grandpa Joe has a coin, it is Charlie he wants to spend it on.
But it is the chocolate factory that tantalises and delights and Mr Wonka himself, one of Dahl's most enigmatic characters who make this book. There is almost a childlike quality about Willy Wonka. Picture his reaction when Mike Teavee asks quite sensible questions, and he pretends to be deaf or accuses Mike of mumbling so he doesn't have to answer them.
Just like a chocolate bar, the world of Willy Wonka is shiny wrapped and full of colour and sensation, designed to tempt. The names of the chocolate bars: a whipple-scrumptious fudgemallow delight, a chewing gum that provides a 3 course meal, a land where the chocolate is mixed, complete with edible green grass and fruits. All from the imagination of one of the best storytellers.
The other children are truly ghastly and leave us rooting for Charlie. But again these characters have become some of the best known in literature.
This is Dahl at his best, the language, the story, the chocolate. All serve to delight and entertain. I agree, this is my favourite Dahl book and deserves its place at #35 on the BBC Big Read List.
I'm already looking forward to our reading group discussion.