Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a dark children’s book by British author Roald Dahl and illustrated by the amazing Quentin Blake. The story and the first book of two about Charlie Bucket was first published in 1964 and apparently was inspired by author’s experience during his schooldays – Cadbury (chocolate company) would often send test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on the new products and apparently it was a common practice to send spies into other chocolate companies to try and steal secrets.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka. Although the chocolate factory has been closed for many years to those who do not belong in it, its master Mr Wonka suddenly reappears with a message that five children from the whole wide world will be let into the factory for a day – to explore its secrets and receive a huge amount of chocolate in result. For some kids it might be ambition, for some – dream, but once they get into the factory, their lives will never be the same again.
I am not sure, if I have ever read this book before, so let’s assume that I haven’t. The only film adaptation I’ve seen is Tim Burton’s with Johnny Depp as Mr Wonka and that is were I got all of my assumptions and expectations for this story from.
Before I start, I would like to mention that once I read Charlie’s grandparent names, I was taken aback, because ‘George and Georgina’? Really? That is really funny, because when I was a kid, I thought that all moms and dads had the same name (you know, like Charles and Charlotte, Chris and Christina wtc.), because mine did (and obviously everyone in Charlie’s family did). And for a long time I believed in a fake name for my grandmother, because of my grandfather’s name. C’est la vie!
So… I don’t really mind the movie. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, yet I still don’t think that it was too bad. And those are the feelings I went with into this book. I haven’t seen the previous adaptation, but the book was better than Burton’s film.
I still didn’t really like the characters, but I enjoyed Wonka a lot better because his voice and actions made sense and had hidden meanings and I found myself understanding those. Although Johnny Depp’s Wonka might not had a huge difference from the one in the book, I obviously thought of the character a bit different from him and… well, that’s really not bad at all.
The story itself was dark, it showed plain pain and poorness that had nothing to do with laziness or other issues people usually stamp on the poor people. It also showed flaws that all the people had, and not just in good or bad, which was nice. But most of all the story, of course, was a lesson. It talks about sins, bad behaviour and spoiled children, it teaches them a lesson that if shown and explained properly could have an impact on child’s life and world. Sure, it has a different meaning in modern tech world and the further we move away from where we once were, the less the story will mean the things it originally meant (have you noticed, how I feel like someone should re-write Dahl stories ALL THE TIME, to keep up with the new sins in life?), but as long as the reader remember’s and can explain, it is worth a while.
The only thing that I didn’t actually like at all was the ‘winning’. At one point we find out about a winner of the day, which is a secret and was never mentioned before. All that is fine – sunshine and daisies, but I can’t get over the fact that each of the challenges was designed specifically for each of the kids that participated in them, yet one of the kids got no challenges. Does that mean that he didn’t have a vice? An obstacle that he should overcome? Does it mean that he was just lucky? Can you really win, if you didn’t participate – if you didn’t do your challenge? Sure, if everyone else loses in a sporting event and you are still there, you win, but this was not about winning. This had a deeper meaning behind the victory. And the fact that someone just doesn’t do a challenge and wins, well… that is called cheating.
I could recognise the BFG inside this book. Some things, wordings and type of writing was familiar. And I really want to say that the songs were pretty damn brilliant. Have no idea when was the last time I said that a song in a book was good, but I liked them so much in this one and that surprised me. Especially because I hated the whole Oompa-Loompa business in the film.
So, yes, I expected to dislike this book, but at the end – I liked it. It received four stars from me on my goodreads page!