English Book Club: ‘Tales of the unexpected’ by Roald Dahl
As told on his biography, the first book he published was “One of you” (1946), a collection of stories based on his years as a pilot.
He wrote other collections for adults which achieved wide popularity, including “Someone like you” (1953), “Kiss, kiss” (1960) and “Switch bitch” (1974). A number of these stories were rewritten for television as “Tales of the unexpected”.
It is the development of the action rather than that of the characters that is central to Dahl’s writing, and his stories are characerized by the presence of an unusual twist at the end.
The characters are ordinary and respectable on the surface, but many of them have an unexpectedly dark and cruel side to their personality. Tension is built up around the relationships between the various characters. Often a husband and wife are involved in mind games in which their hatred for each other is rarely mentioned or acted on until it has built up to an unbearable level.
A harmless guessing game between two lovers of good wine suddenly becomes deadly serious, while a competition on board a ship has an even more serious result for one of the competitors.
These situations and more, develop in unexpected ways in this excellent collection.
Roald Dahl was born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents. He was a prolific reader, and began writing at an early age, keeping a private journal starting at the age of eight.
His school experiences left him miserable. Recording the events helped him lay the groundwork for his later stories, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine.
Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Following the war, he was invited to lunch by C.S. Forester, author of Captain Hornblower. Forester asked him to write out his war experiences, thinking of it as a sort of interview.
He was so impressed by the writing quality that he didn’t change a word, and got the Post to pay Dahl $900 for it.
In 1943, Dahl’s first children’s book was published. It was a picture book called The Gremlins, which had been commissioned by Walt Disney as a book version of a movie script. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was highly impressed by the book, and quickly befriended the writer.
More children’s stories were not penned until the 1960’s, after he had his own children. He used to tell his daughters stories at night, and these later became beloved books. Dahl also write screenplays for cinema and television.
The English Book Club will meet again to coment this book on saturday April 14th.