9.9.14

GANGSTA GRANNY by David Walliams

David Walliams, as Wikipedia says, is an English comedian, actor, author, and television presenter. In early 2008, Walliams began his career as a writer of children's books and 'Gangsta Granny' is his fourth.

This book tells the story of Ben, a boy who hates staying at his granny's house every Friday night because all she ever wants to do is play Scrabble and, even worse, every meal on the menu is alway made of cabbage.

Unexpectedly Ben learns that his granny is not so boring as he thought. He finds out that the smelly squeaky old lady was once an international jewel thief and together they plan and almost manage to achieve to steal every great thief's dream: the Crown Jewels.

Walliams style has been compared to Dahl's since in some ways they are both irreverent and humorous and I share the opinion that there are some elements of his style of storytelling that recall Dahl's own style.

The protagonist, Ben, is a child who has a passion which is not approved of by his family and doesn't feel loved by the adults who should be taking care of him instead of packing him off to Granny's. For instance, Ben loves plumbing (like Matilda loves reading) and he dreams of being a plumber someday, while, his ordinary parents who live ordinary lives and are fond of a ballroom dancing Tv show, want him to be a professional dancer.

Also, as in Dahl's novels, there are secrets to be revealed, funny situations, unusual experiences, a surprisingly understanding Queen of the United Kingdom and in the end a valuable lesson is learnt by all.

On the other hand, I find that Dahl is extremely skilled at drawing you into his incredible tales, that, even though the worlds he describes are so distant from our own reality, you can't help but believe that the impossible has become real. You don't ask yourself whether the Oompa Loompa actually existed or if Wonka's inventions could really work (I can't tell you how many times I dreamt of his Great Glass Elevator as a child); you are just sucked into a daydream, a parallel world, where truly anything could happen.

Walliams' book however, didn't make me feel the same. On the contrary, I found myself trying to figure out if Ben and Granny's ideas would have worked in real life. Possibly, the reason for this quite different reaction is due to the fact that, every now and then, the author establishes a direct dialogue with his reader. From a step-by-step guide to pretending to brush your teeth to the detailed description of the Crown Jewels, passing through an explanation of Venn diagrams and Granny's recipe for cabbage cake, Walliams tends to bring us back to real life, creating a sort of contrast that doesn't allow you to fully escape from reality.

Of course I wouldn't say this is a negative aspect of his style. The image of Ben and Granny wearing wetsuits and scuba diving masks on their way to the Tower of London on a motorized scooter with a top speed of three miles per hour, wouldn't have made me  laugh so much if I hadn't been able to imagine them on an actual motorway to London with some very puzzled real-life passersby staring at them.

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