Most people know Roald Dahl as a famous write of children’s books and adult short stories, but few are aware of his fascination with medicine. Right from his earliest days to the end of his life, Dahl was intrigued by what doctors do, and why they do it. During his lifetime, he and his family suffered some terrible medical tragedies: Dahl nearly died when his fighter plane went down in World War II; his son had severe brain injury in an accident; and his daughter died of measles infection of the brain. But he also had some medical triumphs: he dragged himself back to health after the plane crash, despite a skull fracture, back injuries, and blindness; he was responsible for inventing a medical device (the Wade-Dahl-Till valve) to treat his son's hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and he taught his first wife Patricia to talk again after a devastating stroke. His medical interactions clearly influenced some of his writing – for example the explosive potions in George’s Marvellous Medicine. And sometimes his writing impacted on events in his life – for example the research on neuroanatomy he did for his short story William and Mary later helped him design the valve for treating hydrocephalus. In this unique book, Professor Tom Solomon, who looked after Dahl towards the end of his life, examines Dahl’s fascination with medicine. Taking examples from Dahl’s life, and illustrated with excerpts from his writing, the book uses Dahl’s medical interactions as a starting point to explore some extraordinary areas of medical science. Solomon is an award-winning science communicator, and he effortlessly explains the medical concepts underpinning the stories, in language that everyone can understand. The book is also peppered with anecdotes from Dahl’s late night hospital discussions with Solomon, which give new insights into this remarkable man’s thinking as his life came to an end.
'Overall, the story of Dahl’s life is only part of the concoction that is Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Medicine, and the book provides novel insight into the less discussed aspects of the life of this well-loved and fascinating author.'
Isabel Lokody, The Lancet
'Solomon (neurological science, Univ. of Liverpool, UK) has written an entertaining and unique biography of Roald Dahl. Renowned for his books and short stories, including Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach, Dahl had a deep knowledge of medicine that informed his writing. Solomon was a doctor on the ward where Dahl was admitted for anemia, which gave him the opportunity to develop a relationship with Dahl, based in part on their shared knowledge of medicine. Solomon describes how Dahl’s writing drew on personal life experiences that were linked with psychological or physical trauma. A plane crash as a fighter pilot, malaria, the death of his young daughter Olivia, the serious injury of his son Theo, and a stroke suffered by his wife (the actress Patricia Neal) surface in his stories in unexpected ways. Solomon’s anecdotes combine with biographical details to give a full picture of Dahl and what drove his creative process. This is a very interesting and enjoyable read for fans of Dahl’s whimsical and dark humor. Proceeds from this book will go to six charities that were significant to Dahl.'
J. Swiatek, UConn Health, CHOICE
'Inspired by meeting, conversing with, and medically treating Dahl in 1990...the book reflects the wealth of research undertaken by Solomon in archives, as well as his engagement with Dahl’s vast corpus, and the conversations with Dahl’s friends and families, in a concerted effort to diagnose the anecdotes shared during their witching hours on the ward.'
Dr Jen Baker, The British Society for Literature and Science
'This book is a delight to read and at times will bring you to tears: for example, when we hear about Olivia’s unexpected death and its effect on Dahl. At other times the book will make you laugh out loud: for example, when we hear about the “golden age of chocolate”... This is a special and heartwarming book, full of incident, highly readable and informative....I can almost guarantee you will enjoy it and learn not only about Dahl’s writings but also about his contribution to medicine and to rehabilitation.'
Barbara Wilson, The Oliver Zangwill Centre, Ely, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation
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