Why ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is my favourite Roald Dahl book
My copy nestles between Blyton’s ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and a collection of Proysen’s Mrs Pepperpot stories on the shelf right above my desk. Its pages are yellowed with age and pretty much fall out as soon as you open the cover. The cover is without a Hollywood image from either film, but captures the characters looking at a strange machine producing multi-coloured somethings…intriguing.
I do wholeheartedly blame my ongoing sugar addiction on the wonderfulness of this book! My naturally sweet tooth found total justification for its cravings within the walls of Wonka’s factory. There are three main reasons why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will always be my favourite Dahl.
Transportation to the world of Roald Dahl
This is the first time I remember feeling actually transported into the fictional world of a book I read all by myself. And what a world it is! It is also the first time that I started re-reading a book the instant I finished it – I just didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay where I could sleep on eatable marshmallow pillows, watch a chocolate waterfall flow into a river and taste brand new sweets the moment they were invented.
“And outside the walls, for half a mile around in every direction, the air was scented with the heavy rich smell of melting chocolate.”
This is how we meet the factory. There’s a coffee shop in my hometown called Watt’s who has the best coffee and hot chocolate aroma wafting from its door. It has always reminded me of this description and I struggle to resist.
Inside the factory is even more overwhelming: “All the most wonderful smells in the world seemed to be mixed up in the air around them – the smell of roasting coffee, ands burnt sugar and melting chocolate and mint and violets and crushed hazelnuts and apple blossom and caramel and lemon peel…”
It wasn’t until I read Joanne Harris’s ‘Chocolat’ that I found any other book that evoked smells so convincingly and built such anticipation into the grand opening of the controversial chocolaterie. I confess to feeling this a few years ago when Hotel Chocolat announced the opening of its café on Kensington High Street – it did not disappoint; in its irresistible aroma or the deliciousness of, well, everything!
I think that my sense of smell would have always led me down the sugary path to chocolate. But my deep memory of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ has become so inextricably linked to the aroma that I still get an accompanying little buzz of excitement.
The cast of characters given in the front of the book only lists the children, leaving some as a surprise. We get to know Willy Wonka at the same pace as Charlie and are just as taken aback by the miniature Oompa-Loopas, when they make their appearance. I remember being quite mesmerised by the latter and found their rhyming songs rather menacing.
Like his other books, there is an undertone of the sinister underlying the delight of winning a golden ticket and visiting a marvellous chocolate factory. But Dahl creates a safe place to feel uncomfortable and experience the unfamiliar.
Willy Wonka himself as an unknown, distrustful, reclusive sort was unlike anyone I’d encountered either in real life or other books. As an adult, I feel more of an affinity with him and am no longer wary of the Oompa-Loompas. In fact I find the thought of them “tiddly” on Buttergin hilarious and something I would very much like to be part of!
Basically, I love ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ just as much now as I did on first reading. And yes, I am writing this while eating chocolate. Coco-dusted, salted caramel filled, chocolate spheres of joy, to be precise. Thank-you Mr Dahl, my Wonka induced chocoholism continues…!