Going Solo by Roald Dahl

A childhood classic, an autobiographical sketch of Dahl’s years as a fighter pilot in the World War. The delightful little read is nostalgic, and conjures up those earlier years of my life where procuring a Roald Dahl book (only the edition illustrated by Quentin Blake, mind you) would be the highlight of time spent between school and home.

“Going Solo” follows Dahl’s life from his earlier autobiography “Boy” to his inadvertent enlisting as a fighter pilot whilst deployed in Africa. There is a continuous sense of innocence marked in the life of Dahl as a soldier, the inevitability that those seniors and juniors fighting for Britain against Germany overseas had no clue as to what was going on. Each time Dahl has a lucky escape from death, yet his courage is undiminished. Due to the fact that this indeed is a children’s book, the element of patriotism which underscores much of the narrative of the two World Wars, is duly missing from this story. There is a sense of having been randomly thrown into the midst of chaos and living each day for itself, for survival. The adventurous young Dahl sure did enjoy his travels across Africa and Middle East and the role thrust upon him as a pilot to shoot down enemy planes. A pleasing tale for any child who wants to get lost in exotic voyages without any gruesome details.

  • A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great onesGoing Solo
  • Nowadays you can fly to Mombasa in a few hours and you stop nowhere and nothing is fabulous any more
  • it was rather wonderful for me, a conventional young lad from the suburbs, to be thrust suddenly into the middle of this pack of sinewy sunburnt gophers and their bright bony little wives, and what I liked best of all about them was their eccentricities.
  • There was something rather admirable about the way he was galloping round and round the deck with no clothes on at all, something wonderfully innocent and unembarrassed and cheerful and friendly. And here was I, a bundle of youthful self-consciousness, gaping at him through the port-hole and disapproving quite strongly of what he was doing.
  • Fingers are foul and filthy, but toes! Toes are reptilian and viperish!
  • Out of those sixteen, no fewer than thirteen were killed in the air within the next two years. In retrospect, one gasps at the waste of life.
  • A great sense of peace and serenity seemed to surround these massive, slow-moving, gentle beasts. Their skin hung loose over their bodies like suits they had inherited from larger ancestors, with the trousers ridiculously baggy
  • I was already beginning to realize that the only way to conduct oneself in a situation where bombs rained down and bullets whizzed past, was to accept the dangers and all the consequences as calmly as possible
  • He was a very small man and very soft-spoken, and he possessed the deeply wrinkled doleful face of a cat who knew that all nine of its lives had already been used up.
  • One of our pilots baled out and was saved. Four were killed. Among the dead was the great Pat Pattle, all his lucky lives used up at last
  • ‘Is this your land?’ I asked him. ‘Not yet,’ he said. ‘You mean you are hoping to buy it?’ He looked at me in silence for a while. Then he said, ‘The land is at present owned by a Palestinian farmer but he has given us permission to live here. He has also allowed us some fields so that we can grow our own food.’

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