Is this the last Book Project review? Could it be? Is the insanity finally over? Quite possibly, given how hectic the rest of today will probably be. I suppose I should savor the moment, and I have to admit, I am glad to be going out with a Dahl, because he is one of my favourite authors, and I would also venture to say that he played a critical role in my formative years.
This collection of stories includes several works of fiction, and several works of non-fiction, including Roald Dahl’s first published story, which is pretty exciting. (It’s about the time he went down over Egypt during the Second World War.) It’s really interesting to read this mixture of stories from different periods in Dahl’s life, and to see how much his writing evolved and changed over the course of his life.
My favourite story is probably “The Swan,” which is just Dahl at its finest, macabre, strange, and gruesome, with an object lesson embedded in the tale. I love that in his stories, nasty little boys usually get a comeuppance, and nerds, freaks, and geeks end up being rewarded for their kind and gentle natures. It’s also interesting to note that he included another story which touches on animal rights and kindness to animals in this collection, and it makes me wonder about that side of Dahl’s personality.
“Lucky Break,” his discussion of how he started writing in the first place, is very interesting, and I can’t help but love “A Piece of Cake,” even though it feels very crude and rough and you can really feel his influences and derivations. It’s remarkable how much a writer’s style and attitude can change with time, and I think that all writers should be required to publicize their first works accepted for publication, just for general interest. The other work of nonfiction talks about a remarkable treasure find which occurred in Suffolk. Dahl traveled to the scene, untangled the web of stories around it, and published a very nice bit of investigative journalism about the event.
The title story doesn’t actually thrill me all that much, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s an interesting premise, and there’s no real reason not to like it, I just didn’t. I suppose that one can’t like everything by one’s favourite author, and that’s just the way of things.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, by Roald Dahl. Published 1977, 225 pages.