Roald Dahl

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is one of my favorites. How could he not be? The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; “Lamb to the Slaughter” is one of my all-time favorite short stories. So of course I grabbed this one when I found it at a local thrift shop. Of course I did.

Sadly, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as his other books that I’ve read.

Oh, it wasn’t bad. But unlike his other works, it was — well, boring. There wasn’t a whole lot of imagination in there. Three of the stories were non-fiction. One, “The Mildenhall Treasure,” was about a treasure discovered in England by two men plowing a field, which was interesting, except the ending is terribly frustrating. One, “Lucky Break,” was the story of how Dahl got started as an author, which was actually quite interesting but also a little frustrating for me as a long-time unpublished author, because here’s the story: he didn’t even know he wanted to be an author, until one day he was asked to tell the story of his experiences as an RAF pilot during WWII, and he offered to write the story down instead; the man who asked Dahl for the story? C.S. Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower novels. A million-selling adventure writer at the time. So when he sent Dahl’s story on with his personal recommendation, guess what? Suddenly Dahl had a writing career. That is not to take anything away from Dahl’s ability and imagination, which were both prodigious, but — lucky sod. Anyway. Totally not jealous, I swear. The third non-fiction one, “A Piece of Cake,” was the best: it was the story he wrote for Forester, and it was both interesting and very imaginative, as the last half of it is essentially a long dream sequence, which took place while Dahl recovered in a hospital from an injury.

The other stories, the fictional ones, were also up and down. The Henry Sugar story is indeed wonderful. It’s also a story within a story within a story, which is pretty cool. “The Boy Who Talked With Animals” was absolutely one I wanted to live for myself. “The Hitchhiker” was okay, but it’s a bit long for only one gag; and “The Swan” was completely irritating because nothing happens to the bad guy — just like the Mildenhall Treasure story.

So overall, I still like Roald Dahl, but I didn’t think a whole lot of this book. Find another collection that has Henry Sugar, “The Boy Who Talked With Animals,” and “A Piece of Cake,” and give this one a miss.

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