Switch Bitch – Roald Dahl

I am going to sound like a complete heathen.

This is the first work by Roald Dahl that I have read.
I know Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inside and out through the glory that is cinema.  Willie Wonka as Gene Wilder, viewed every Christmas in the usual programming line-up.  But never the book.  Nor any of the other classics:
James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The BFG.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware of their existence, I have just never been interested enough to pick any of them to read. I think that might change now.

This set of four short stories is for adults.  It was on the returns shelf the last time I was in the library and I thought it was well past due that I try out Mr Dahl.  It was short stories, so I thought an easy starting point.
The theme of the stories is seduction and suspense.
If Wikipedia is to be believed, these were originally written for Playboy back in 1965 and collected together in this form in 1974.

The four stories are The Visitor, The Great Switcheroo, The Last Act and Bitch.
Don’t visit the links for each story if you plan to read them, they contain spoilers.

I found each of the stories very easy to read, although by the time I was reading Bitch I was pretty much over the theme.  The endings to both The Visitor and The Great Switcheroo appealed to my sense of righteousness while Bitch was easy to see coming.   With The Last Act however, I found the end to be quite disturbing and unpleasant.  The other three stories contained seeds of humour while this one did not.
It was dark to the point of making me feel appalled and nauseous at the actions of one of the characters.

What I did take away from reading this slim volume was the idea that maybe I really should make the effort with his children’s books.  If I don’t I may be depriving my children of some well written works that they will come to love.
I’m not sure that I will seek out any of his adult works for some time though.   The Last Act has left something of a bitter aftertaste in my mouth.

2 thoughts on “Switch Bitch – Roald Dahl

  1. Love short stories and Roald Dahl – as a kid I really loved The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar. And Georges Marvellous Medicine was the very first book I remember* reading with my mum!

    Is it wrong that I am totally intrigued by the fact you found one of them disturbing and now I really want to read it? I quite like dark and disturbing things to read on the odd occasion (Irivine Welsh, Poppy Z Brite and the short stories of Carol Joyce Oates and Steven Milhauser. The latter is more surreal than disturbing though). I usually balance it out with something light and fluffy.

    *Actually remember, I’m sure there were others. (this is an Oh Waily influence, the little asterix and footnote!)


  2. Well I returned it to Central a few days ago so it’s there for the reading. 🙂

    I didn’t think The Last Act was a particularly good short story, but it was readable. For the most part it is sad, but thinking about the actions of one character at the very end was the disturbing bit.

    It’d be interesting to see if I’m on my own in thinking that. So let me know if you do end up reading it in the future. 🙂


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