A Book Summary of "Going Solo" by Roald Dahl

by Michael Davidson

If you've ever dreamed about being stuck in a giant peach or lost in a magical candy factory, you've been affected by the imagination and writings of Roald Dahl. Dahl was an author perhaps best known for children's books such as "James and the Giant Peach" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." He also published two memoirs about his life, with the second one entitled "Going Solo."


The book begins with Dahl already a 22-year-old young man ready to embark on a trip to Africa to work for Shell Oil Co. He had already developed a great fondness for sweets that would later inspire him to write "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." He had suffered multiple canings during schooling growing up, often as a result of pranks he and his friends would play on teachers and other adults. He also became a fan of Charles Dickens' work. The trip to Africa would be Dahl's first full-time job.

Traveling to Africa

The trip to Africa took two weeks by boat from London to Mombasa, and there were many flamboyant characters on the trip. Dahl's cabin-mate would sprinkle salt on his own shoulders to pass as dandruff since he didn't want anyone to know he wore a wig. Another couple would exercise every morning on the ship's deck in the nude. Upon arrival, Dahl was stationed in Tanganyika, which is an area now known as Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Shell Oil

Dahl lived with two other workers for the company and they had servants to attend to their needs, but Dahl also traveled often and saw much of the countryside. The details of his specific job are vague, but he would often travel to various Shell outposts and stay for several weeks. While afraid of snakes, Dahl was enthralled by the numerous other animals he saw in the wild such as giraffes and lions. He looks back on this time of his life very fondly in the book.

World War II Erupts

Dahl was immediately recruited into the Army when war was declared against Germany. He was ordered to round up German businessmen and shopkeepers and place them into internment camps, although women and children were released so they could return home. Dahl joined the Royal Airforce in 1939. He crashed his plane on his first mission to meet with his squadron and was hospitalized. Once he recovered, he was sent to Greece. Many of his friends were killed in air battles with German forces. Greece was captured by the Germans, so Dahl relocated to Palestine. Chronic migraines caused his release from the Air Force and he then returned to England, where the book concludes.