I've had this book on my shelf for years and decided, at last, to read it. Turns out that painfully annoying and fantastical author that my 2nd grade teacher forced my to read had some interesting adventures!Going Solo
covers the years that Dahl was in Africa as an agent for Shell until he is discharged from the Royal Air Force in the early years of World War Two. Along the way there are rich descriptions of the last days of the British Empire, beginning with the people Dahl encounters on his voyage to Africa. Also, while in Kenya and Tanzania he has the benefit of a huge house, a personal "boy", and general privilege while encountering some less than savory wildlife. All along, though, there is tension building in Europe and eventually Dahl leaves the luxury of an oil company employee life behind to fly planes for the RAF.
Dahl's RAF experiences is immensely interesting because he participated in a very small part of the war. On one of his first missions he somehow crashes and breaks most of his face, resulting in an extended convalescence and eventually discharge from the RAF. Turns out that facial injuries, in his case, made him prone to blacking out at high G turns, something that is a bit necessary to be a fighter pilot. The colorful squadron characters he encounters as well as parts of letters home really round out the story.
Despite my distaste for Dahl's children's fiction, I think I'm coming around to Dahl as a writer. He has a perfect balance of witty bring downs and solemn moments (his buddy from the RAF squadron does not make it through the war), overall making a very English memoir of at the very end of the British Empire.
(Also, there are planes so that makes the book automatically cooler, if anyone else is so aviation inclined.)