Sunday, 2 June 2013

Short Story Sunday - Roald Dahl

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life: The Country Stories of Roald Dahl

After WWII Roald Dahl returned to England and spent some time living with his mother in Buckinghamshire. They lived in Old Amersham for a number of years and the country stories contained in this collection are set in the Chiltern Hills, in and around that town.

The collection, with illustrations by John Lawrence, contains seven stories (most of which were first published between 1953 and 1960). The longest story (Mr Feasey) is forty-three pages long, but, long or short, all the stories are easy to read, hilariously funny and quite often nauseatingly grotesque; I made the mistake of reading the revolting tale, The Ratcatcher, while eating breakfast.

The ratcatcher and his ferret.

Despite their apparent simplicity  and strong sense of time and place, many of the stories are timeless, masterful studies of human nature: the covetous antiques dealer in Parson's Pleasure who is ultimately vanquished by his own slick, well-practiced swindle; the fiance, who cannot hope to ever please his beloved's father, in Mr Hoddy; and the sly bookmakers at the greyhound track, in Mr Feasey, who prove that however much you think you might be pulling the wool over someone's eyes, you might just be being taken for a ride too. 


  1. Lovely--I'll have to try and track this collection down. Have you read "Kiss, Kiss" by Dahl? I remember that as a fantastic, sometimes very nasty short story collection. (Good old Dahl.)

  2. I read "Kiss, Kiss" and also "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar" as a teenager. I find many of his stories: nasty, harsh and brutal, but somehow utterly compelling.

    This collection, "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" is my first time reading Dahl as an adult. I think I will return to his other writing though as I had forgotten how fascinating his stories are. I also find his tales incredibly memorable, usually I seem to forget what I've read after about a year. Even though I read "Henry Sugar" over two decades ago I can still remember a couple of the stories from that collection.