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Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Title: Kalle och chockladfabriken
Original title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl
Narrator: Ernst-Hugo Järegård
Year: 1964

Most people are probably familiar with the story of Charlie who loves chocolate, but because his family is so poor, he only gets one bar every year on his birthday. When Willy Wonka, the eccentric and world-famous candy maker, announces that he will, for the first time, invite five children to come to his secret factory, Charlie starts dreaming about being one of the lucky few. As can be deduced from the title, Charlie wins the last ticket by a miracle and the adventure can begin.

Before I even start commenting on this book, I need to say something about the version I’ve listed to. Most of the time, I don’t make a point of commenting narrator (see my post about listening to audio books for an explanation of this), but this time, the narrator is probably more than half the experience, so it’s necessary to say something about him. Ernst-Hugo Järegård was an actor probably most well-known in Scandinavia, with a voice that defies description. He was a true master of mimicking dialects, modulating his own voice and telling stories. He could make a dull description of a house interesting simply because he read it.

That being said, reading Roald Dah’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he is too extreme. For instance, the difference between his loudest and weakest voices is so big that I have strain to hear what he’s saying one second, only to throw myself at the volume control to not damage my hearing the next. Still, he contributes a lot, most of it good. I would be prepared to listen to almost any story if he read it.

What about the story itself? Well, it’s interesting as children’s books go, but I can’t say I’m very impressed (although it’s definitely more interesting than Boy, the only other novel by Dahl I’ve read as an adult). The plot is straightforward except for one or two twists and fairly predictable.However, the setting and the characters are much more lively and memorable. The children joining the thoughtful and quiet Charlie to the factory, along with their parents, are adorably monstrous, including the other four children and their parents. I feel that this is a kind of pandering to young readers need to demonise children they don’t like in their own lives, but Roal Dahl is far more successful in this than J.K. Rowling ever was in Harry Potter (in which this was a main reason I became utterly bored).

I have no idea what I would have thought about this book if I would have read it and not listened to Järegård reading it, but I can hazard a guess. The story is average, but the characters would add at least one snail to the rating. Järegård is interesting, but he’s not as brilliant as he is when reading H.P. Lovecraft, but he still made the story more worthwhile than it would have been without him. A final rating of four snails seems appropriate.

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