The Complete Short Stories, Volume One: 1944-1953
No matter who you are, you have probably heard of Roald Dahl. Literally, he is one of the most prolific British authors ever. The man who brought us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches and Matilda was a big part of my childhood – who did not love The BFG? For my birthday a friend gave me this collection of short stories (you all know what a big fan of short stories I am), and I was intrigued to see how Dahl writes for adult audiences.
This collection is the first in a special series of Dahl’s stories, from various magazines throughout the period. The first half of the stories are centred around the Second World War, drawing upon Dahl’s experiences as an RAF flying ace. These in themselves were intriguing, as a testimony to the proximity of death for pilots and disillusionment with war. Often they feature the tribulations of the same squadron; following their adoption of a Greek girl on the decimation of her village, in their down time in various cities liberating brothels or whatever, and in ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’, considering the legions of dead and the passage to the afterlife.
The second half is a lot more reminiscent of polite British society, with several stories featuring Brits abroad on various jaunts or participating in the last breaths of colonialism. One classic story, that I did not originally realise was Dahl’s, is the tale of a woman who murders her husband with a joint of meat, getting away with it by roasting it and serving it up to his police colleagues.
I really enjoyed these stories. I think there is a little bit for everyone in here. It does not even need to be said that Dahl is a literary genius, yet each one was beautifully crafted. However, I do not know if this was due to the differences in subject matter, but I almost felt that this should have been two separate books. There was no cohesion, or an overarching style to the writing. Perhaps this is because each was originally piece work for magazines,not intended to be read all together.
If you know any big Roald Dahl fans, I would say that they would still definitely try some of his ‘grown-up’ stuff. I know I definitely want to read more.