In the first book, the one with the Chocolate Factory, we find out that little Charlie lives with his very poor family in a little house that only has one bed, and this is shared by his four very old grandparents. They are called Grandpa Joe, who joined Charlie in the chocolate factory trip, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina. As you finish The Chocolate Factory and start reading through The Glass Elevator, you start getting the feeling that there is some sort of happy end on the way for this poor family who has been suffering for a very long time.
This, only if you manage to get over the very nasty feeling you get in The Chocolate Factory when Charlie spends Grandpa Joe's savings for an unlucky bar of chocolate and then the family starves for weeks.
So, Charlie inherits the chocolate factory and exotic Mr. Wonka wants to drag the whole family into the factory where they could live happily ever after. So far so good.
But the three grandparents that never get out of bed cause a lot of nasty problems because of their disbelief in Willie Wonka. The elevator gets thrown out into the orbit of the Earth and becomes a space shuttle and here Roald Dahl plays all-in on Hollywood effects: The President of USA is here, there are last minute escapes, aliens, conspiracy theories, political satire etc. (Will post some quotes for sure, they are just too good.)
The most disturbing part of the story happens back in the chocolate factory, though, where the grandparents are punished for their greed, just like children had been in the previous book. But there is something really sad and not right about old people going through hell, or maybe it's just me. I wasn't bothered at all when children where being inflated or shrunk in the first book. But here you have 80 year-olds who should enjoy the rest of their lives in peace now but they are almost killed. This is too much even for mean Willie Wonka when he simply refuses to watch the grandparents fighting over his miraculous medicine.
So, to avoid giving anymore spoilers, a few conclusions that have been haunting me all day:
- Read The Great Glass Elevator carefully and keep your eyes open for puns and subtle jokes as only Roald Dahl can make
- Read it for the dark humour and the satire and the absurdity of it all
- Read it when you're feeling ok and well-rested and you are ready to change the world
- Read it if you need extra reasons to hate politicians
- Don't read it when you're missing your grandparents because it will disturb you in ways you cannot imagine
- Don't read it to very young children. It takes a lot of brain power and a strong emotional balance to go through this and survive it.