Roald Dahl is probably most famous as a popular children's writer, and is much loved by young readers world-wide for his contribution to children's literature with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and many other favourites. "The Best of Roald Dahl" proves that Dahl is also brilliant at writing short stories on a more adult level. He has a wicked imagination, and has the uncanny ability to stretch it beyond the borders of the normal, picturing ordinary details in a most vivid and elaborate manner. His brilliant imagination travels far and wide to places and events you have never imagined possible, and yet which are not fantastic but entirely believable because of his compelling realism. His realism is sometimes so compelling, that you are almost persuaded that Dahl is telling a true story, and are left wondering whether or not the story is fact or fiction - a remarkable accomplishment for a fiction writer!
Dahl's interest is sometimes dark and off-colour, and his constant fascination with the morbid and ugly makes this book suitable only for mature readers. I personally found his frequent use of blasphemy rather disturbing, as well has his occasional interest in sexual exploits (evident in three stories where he deals with matters such as prostitution, wife-swapping, and sexual conquest). Despite this, the majority of these stories are unquestionably spell-binding. Dahl's short stories have the capacity to leave you breathless because they are entirely unpredictable. He has a love for unhappy, even horrible endings that shock and surprise, yet are incredibly satisfying because they are unexpected. His incredible ability to describe an evil or horrible scheme in rich detail is so riveting, that you are completely caught up in its authenticity and excitement. Just when you are at the point of rejoicing in its apparent success, Dahl takes the greatest pleasure in dashing all expectations to pieces, as the scheme ends in an astonishing failure. You are left with a wonderful blend of mixed feelings: disappointment at failure, yet satisfaction knowing that justice is done, albeit in a cruel or most surprising manner. His dark humour is completely captivating, and in certain respects Dahl can correctly be regarded as a literary genius.
Some of the highlights in my view are "Taste" (a delightful tale where a man lays his daughter on the line in a "sure" bet with a wine-taster), "Parson's Pleasure" (where an underhanded scheme to acquire the some of the world's greatest antiques for peanuts is chopped to pieces on the verge of its success), "Champion of the World" (a poacher's dream nearly comes true with an incredible scheme to steal birds), and "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar"(a remarkable but believable story about a man who develops an incredible ability to see through playing-cards).
But these favourites are just the tip of the iceberg. This book boasts more than 500 pages, and contains nearly 30 of Roald Dahl's best short stories, selected from five of his published short story collections. Each makes a delightful 10-20 minutes read, and exhibits his superb skill as one of the most entertaining and ingenious story-tellers in the late 20th century. Recommended!