I must admit, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of Roald Dahl’s kids books, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ploughing through this large collection of short stories. (There’s about 5 books crammed into one here.)
After a while, you start to get the hang of Dahl’s formula, but it’s a fun formula with endless variety (like classical music, really), so it doesn’t get boring.
What he tends to do in all of his tales is start with a very close attention to detail, all of it quite believable. This is because within a couple of pages, he’s going to introduce something totally off-the-wall into the story – and you’re going to buy it completely, because he tells the tale in such a matter-of-fact way.
So when a doctor starts explaining that if your brain and a connecting eyeball were removed from a body after death, you could effectively live forever – it sounds like quite a reasonable idea. When the scientist experiments with his sound machine that can hear ultra-high-pitched sounds, it seems quite plausible that he’d hear tiny screaming coming from the roses being cut in the garden next door.
You can also usually guarantee that there will be some sort of satisfying twist at the end as well.
And so it goes through a huge mixed bag of stories. The only time the collection drags a bit is in the book Over To You, which consists of short war stories. Because these don’t have the element of the fantastic which characterises the others – in fact, most of Dahl’s writing – they’re not as memorable.
But, on the whole, this is a highly amusing collection of short stories for grown ups, and anybody who loved Dahl as a young person isn’t going to be disappointed.
4 out of 5.