September 13 is Roald Dahl Day so put it in your diaries. As a child I adored Danny the Champion of the World, was fascinated by the awful characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and as I made my way through a predictably turbulent adolescence was delighted and terrified by Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I was particularly lucky as Roald Dahl continued to create brilliant stories for children and The BFG was a huge hit with my daughter who read this as her first chapter book at the tender age of four. From then on our trips to London referenced The BFG although her exceptional love of this book didn’t mean that she could visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Seeing the delight my own children gained from his books just meant that my admiration for the author grew and grew so imagine my delight when I was given four of the books in the adult collection as part of the celebrations.
Recollected for the first time since their original publication; FEAR, INNOCENCE, TRICKERY and WAR depict some of Dahl’s most sinister tales, including those he greatly admired, focussing on aspects of the human condition that he found most fascinating. Complete with stunningly thought-provoking illustrations, courtesy of renowned artist Charming Baker, Britain’s most seminal author reveals even more about the darker side of human nature.
Fear – Tales of Terror and Suspense.
Following an insightful introduction to this collection by Roald Dahl of how he read all the ghost stories he could lay his hands on marking each one out of ten. He’s not one to fool his audience and cheerfully admits that many received nothing at all so you can be sure that this collection is the cream of the crop of ghosts. Not being a great lover of ghouls and ghosts I was easily tempted in when I saw that the first story was written by the author L.P. Hartley of The Go Between fame.
L.P. Hartley’s story called W.S. features a writer who receives postcards signed off with the intials W.S., coincidently the author’s own initials his name being William Streeter but he brushes this aside commenting that Shakespeare also shared them. Then the pictures on the postcards get closer until they get to Gloucester, very close to where William Streeter lived. The police are convinced they are a hoax, the author wonders whether he is schizophrenic but what is there is another explanation – when the doorbell rings William Streeter finds out. Although I declare myself immune to ghosts and ghoulies I must admit there was a frisson of fear to accompany my delight at this clever tale.
These fourteen classic spine-chilling stories are collected from Dahl’s extensive research of over 700 ghost stories. Fear includes timeless and haunting tales such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Ghost of a Hand, Edith Wharton’s Afterward, Cynthia Asquith’s The Corner Shop and Mary Treadgold’s The Telephone.
Innocence – Tales of Youth and Guile
The largest part of this book is given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Boy which I had previously read but some years ago now. If anything I enjoyed this re-reading far more, being charmed all over again by the stories from childhood that would work their way into his books for children. brilliant to read the flashes of inspiration as he plundered his own memories of mice and gobstoppers and chocolate tasting to create the wonders of The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The illustrations that accompany the stories give us more hints and a glimpse at the author’s Norwegian heritage.
What makes us innocent and how do we come to lose it? Combining autobiographical stories from his childhood – such as the much-loved, Boy – as well as four further tales of innocence lost, Dahl touches on the joys and horrors of growing up. Among other stories you’ll read of the wager that destroys a girl’s faith in her father and the landlady who has plans for her unsuspecting young guest.
Trickery – Tales of Deceit and Cunning
The ten stories within this book vary in length from a single page to far more substantial ones and they all tell of the kinds of daring deeds that don’t rely on strength and brute force but the cunningness of a fox. Once again my favourite was the story which was clearly the forerunner to Danny the Champion of the World – a story I loved when it was read aloud to my primary school class aged seven or eight. Once again I chuckled as two grown men in Champion of the World (no Danny in this version) doctored the raisins to poach the pheasants thereby neatly outwitting the gamekeeper and giving the pheasants a far better send off than being blasted by a gun!
To what depths of deception would you stoop to get what you want? In these ten dark and twisty tales, Dahl reveals that we are at our smartest and most cunning when we set out to deceive others – and sometimes ourselves. Here you will read of a husband and wife and the parting gift which rocks their marriage, the light fingered hitch-hiker and the grateful motorist, and discover how sleeping pills can aid a little bit of serious poaching.
War – Tales of Conflict and Strife
The last of the four books I received is again given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical work with Going Solo detailing his career as a trainee fighter pilot and then his time in active service. As the book progresses you can’t help but visualise the harsh reality of war which the author punctuates with brilliant descriptions of the people and places he met along the way. Although incredibly moving in places and much darker than the other books in the collection for dint of this being real life I was once again amazed at the breadth as well as depth of Roald Dahl’s story telling prowess.
Including famous short stories such as Over to You, War presents the gripping
autobiographical account of Dahl’s experiences working in East Africa as well as his life as a fighter pilot during WWII. As he travels across the British Empire, you’ll read about the pilot shot down in the Libyan Desert, the fighter plane lost in mysterious fog and the soldier who returns from war irrevocably changed.
Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales present a side of Dahl that few have seen before; this stunning collection is most certainly a darker side of Dahl.