Dahl, Roald: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I listed to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as read by Eric Idle. I don’t think I can say anything new about the book overall: its fantastic inventiveness, its peculiarity, and its cruel streak are all much-remarked. So instead I’ll make a couple of comments about the listening experience.

Idle does a very enjoyable job generally, but I wish the producer had managed his volume better. Generally, when a character whispers on the page, the reader should not whisper, because it’s too hard for a listener to make out the words. (Ditto shouting, though that’s more a matter of sparing the listener’s ears.) Experienced audiobook readers manage the intensity of their reading rather than the volume, which works much better.

The other thing about listening is that it made me wonder where the book was supposed to be set. I’d always assumed it was in Britain, as Dahl was a British writer and it has that indefinably British air. However, though Idle gives Charlie and his family British accents, the money Charlie finds in the street is a dollar bill, and some of the other children have American accents. It’s a bit peculiar, though only distracting in the slower pace of an audiobook.

I don’t remember a thing about the sequel, and look forward to rediscovering it.


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  1. I’m pretty sure that the edition I read (UK, early 80s) didn’t have feature a dollar bill – for a start, someone would have had to explain that meaning of the word ‘bill’ to me. It was definitely a coin, and I’m pretty sure it was a post-decimalisation silver coin, although I can’t remember whether it would have been 10, 20 or 50p.
    I would offer to look it up but my copy fell apart through over-reading in about 1985…

  2. Enough to buy two bars with money left over for the family to eat . . .
    Thanks for the data point.

  3. The sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, was actually one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I read it long before I actually read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though of course I was familiar with the Gene Wilder movie.
    Great Glass Elevator will probably come across as much more dated than Chocolate Factory, for reasons that would probably be spoilers. There’s some classic Dahlian whimsy in there, though.

  4. I think some of the children were American, it was an international contest…Gloop was German, Teevee and the bubblegum girl American, Salt was English.

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