18 February 2021, The Tablet

A grief observed


A grief observed

Hugh Bonneville as Roald Dahl


To Olivia

Is there no end to the uses to which Roald Dahl’s life can be conscripted? Hot on the heels of the TV drama The Tail of the Curious Mouse, about a meeting between the child Dahl and Beatrix Potter, comes another Sky offering (19 February) from the Dahl mythology (and self-mythology). It’s a tale of the restorative power of creative genius – this time spun around Dahl’s paralysing grief following the death from measles of his seven-year-old daughter, Olivia.

When Olivia died in 1962, Dahl and his wife, the film actor Patricia Neal, were living in Gipsy House in Buckinghamshire, now the Dahl Museum where devotees can queue to peer in the window of the writing hut in which James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came into being. It’s been lovingly recreated here – right down to the old-fashioned electric pencil sharpener, the two-bar heater and Thermos.

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