The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl
Goodreads rating: 5 stars
Audio rating: 5 stars
So continuing my Dahlacation, I came across this particular story. Apparently this story is in a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl, but the audio version I listened to was just this book. This story left me shattered. My heart was absolutely broken. For all the best reasons.
Maybe it is my lack of Dahl experience, but I feel like this may be one of Dahl’s lesser known stories. We all know Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and most likely, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. But what about some of his short stories, such as that on Henry Sugar? Though I feel it is a bit lesser known, again my opinion, it is still a wonderful story.
A little bit of information: It starts when Henry Sugar stumbles upon a book written by an English doctor in India who came across a man who could see with his eyes closed. After reading the story, Henry Sugar decides he wants to learn this talent so that, being the gambling man he is, he can go and rob casinos blind without them knowing. It takes him a few years to successfully complete this task. When he gets his talent down to being able to see the face side of a card within 4 seconds, he goes to a casino. He realizes quickly, he has to let himself sometimes lose as to not gather attention. Being that Mr. Sugar is already a wealthy man, he found that he felt incomplete after winning at the casino one night. The next morning, he throws his winnings out of his window to people walking by. It causes a spectacle and a police officer comes knocking on Mr. Sugar’s door. Mr. Sugar explains the story of how he came across the money, the police officer, outraged, explained to Mr. Sugar that if had that kind of money to be throwing out the window, he should be giving it back to the community. The police officer explained that there were many orphanages that are run down and can barely feed the children residing there, and that he would know firsthand as he lived in one. This gives Mr. Sugar a wonderful idea…he will go around all the casinos of the world, winning their money right from under their noses, and building orphanages in every country he goes. In order to do this, he decides that he has to have someone for the financial aspect, someone who will maintain his money and help finance the orphanages appropriately. After a conversation with a tax guy he knows, and a few demonstrations, he acquires the perfect person. They do this for a while, him winning money and sending it to his bank account in Switzerland for the taxman to manage. After a while, some casinos in Vegas catch on to him, and in a narrow escape from the Mafia with his life, he decides he needs someone to help him create disguises. So, after a conversation and a few demonstrations, he finds the perfect man. They travel together, with new passports and new identities and they hit the same casinos over and over again. The two of them do this for decades, funding hundreds of orphanages all around the world.
The story is narrated by a man who was asked to write the story of Henry Sugar when he died. The narrator was curious as to why he was only set to write this part of the story, and not the story of what happened at each casino. The man in charge of the finances stated that Henry’s PIC Max wanted to write that adventure himself, if he could manage to complete it before his own death.
I know I do not normally write a “book report” style book review, but I feel like I had to. This story takes you on an emotional journey, watching Henry Sugar grow from his money hungry, entitled self to the man who funded many orphanages to give children better lives. He not only significantly touched and changed his life and the lives of his closest partners/friends, he changed the lives of children all over the world. What a great way to utilize his hard work for the gift of seeing without your eyes.