The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl – Audible Book Review by Pat V.
Read by Andrew Scott
If you’re still rushing around trying to find that last Christmas stocking filler for the child in your life from six to eighty-six, you could do worse than include this collection of Roald Dahl stories recently released by Audible and read by Andrew Scott (Moriarity in the recent Sherlock series).
It is a collection of seven stories that show the wide range of Dahl’s talent from a non-fiction tale of the finding of Roman booty in The Mildenhall Treasure to an autobiographical piece about his life as a WW2 pilot in A Piece of Cake but most striking of all are the fantastical, sometimes unsettling stories for which Dahl is best known, of which the most striking here are probably The Hitch-hiker and the title novella, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.
Roald Dahl is one of the most popular writers of children’s fiction ever and the qualities that have led to the lasting popularity of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG and Matilda are very obvious here. He creates a recognisable world, larger than life and always tinged with a hint of mystery. His tales often have sinister elements but are told with a rich vein of humour and while they might cause a frisson of unease, they are not likely to give you nightmares.
It is a constant source of surprise that some publishers of audiobooks seem to pay little heed to the suitability of the readers they choose for their works. That is certainly not the case here. Andrew Scott is pitch perfect with a huge vocal range and a great ability to make Dahl’s characters leap off the page. He perfectly captures the terror and outrage of the young boy in The Boy who talked with Animals and is equally able to illustrate the cynical response of the hotel manager, turning a relatively simple story into something memorable. Even in the straight-forward story of the discovery of hidden treasure in rural England in The Mildenhall Treasure, he gives each of the characters involved a distinct personality and this tale that could be just a simple retelling of an historical event becomes something alive and three dimensional.
The title story, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, is the longest and most ambitious of this collection. It is a labyrinthine tale-within-a-tale moving from England to India following Henry Sugar’s quest after he finds a book that seems to be the key to magical powers.
Like in a lot of Dahl’s books, the protagonist is faced with a moral dilemma and Dahl, here, gives us a choice of endings. Oddly, this story gives Scott less scope for his vocal range as it consists mainly of narration rather than dialogue.
So for fans of Roald Dahl, of Andrew Scott or just for people who enjoy a humorous, sideways take on life this collection is well worth listening to. It is available from audible.co.uk and last 7h2mins