BOOK: Tales of the Unexpected
AUTHOR: Roald Dahl
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1990
Roald Dahl is most famous for his books for children, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. These beloved novels generally center around brave, kind children having adventures, and feature some villainous and twisted adults (who are defeated by the children). As children’s book critic Amanda Craig put it, “he was unequivocal that it is the good, young and kind who triumph over the old, greedy and the wicked.”
Dahl’s short stories, however, are quite different. These are meant for the adult reader, and the good, young, and kind are largely absent, with the old, greedy, and wicked taking center stage. This is the stuff of nightmares: dark humor, and macabre, twist endings.
In Tales of the Unexpected you will find cheaters at cards, cheaters in love, vengeful spouses, sadists, murderers, philanderers, dangerous and unstable old men, the ridiculous, the grotesque, the sociopathic, the obsessed, all things thoroughly nasty. The stories, originally written for magazines, later collected (some, like “Lamb to the Slaughter,” frequently anthologized) are well written, the endings truly surprising, but a little of this sort of thing goes a long way. I don’t recommend too much Dahl (at least not Dahl for adults) at one sitting; all the wickedness leaves a bit of a bad taste after a while. Some have argued that the stories (and their author) are misogynistic, which may well be true—but Dahl seems to me to be an equal opportunity offender; the men, overall, don’t come across any better than the women. Husbands and wives are both pretty vile, and there’s an undercurrent of horror just beneath the surface at dinners with friends, on commuter trains, at hotel pools, in English country houses, at garden parties. It’s both ridiculous and a bit fascinating; by all means, read Tales of the Unexpected, but do follow it up with something a bit more wholesome, at least if you’d like to get some sleep at night.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best: 3 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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