Dahl claims at the beginning of his memoir that this is not an autobiography, which he defines as a history of oneself. Rather, Dahl picks memorable stories from his childhood and retells them. To tell the truth, none of them are particularly exciting. But the sheer pleasure of telling stories from his childhood comes through in his prose.
A large number of the stories are tales of Dahl getting in trouble with the various prefects and masters at schools for boys in England. Most involve a caning of some sort. The author explains his obsession with caning even:
All through my school life I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely. I couldn’t get over it. I have never got over it.
Most of the descriptions Dahl creates of the various headmasters other school staff are not flattering. Money-grubbing. Cruel. Fickle. Power-hungry (but unable to get it except by controlling powerless boys). He doesn’t write that his experiences were bad overall. Oddly, despite the focus on beatings, it doesn’t come across like he hated the school. I don’t know if he fondly recalls his school experience, or if he purposefully sanitized his emotional response.
Toward the end, he has two short chapters that I wish were longer. One on a mathematics teacher he named Corkers who hated teaching math. Instead he would have the class solve a crossword puzzle together. Or other such stuff. And a short chapter on Dahl’s skill playing games such as fives. He got to be the school captain for fives. But the chapter is very brief. There’s not a single story of an actual interaction with other students as captain, just a general description of the role he played.
Definitely worth reading as it becomes pretty clear that his experiences as a child directly influenced his writing later on.