Top critical review
A real mix of very good and -well, not good
on 29 February 2016
Dahl at his best is a master of subtle implication, 'show not tell,' allowing the reader to draw inferences that he or she might find macabre, or at least, uncomfortable. My favourite tale, 'The Landlady', is a classic example of this kind of understated horror, when the landlady of the title says," I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away. Will you have another cup of tea?" At this point it has just dawned on the reader precisely what is going on in this story. The other better stories are about how adults punish or play tricks on each other, often for revenge or to change the power balance in a couple's relationship. 'Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat' is a deliciously neat example of this, and the one with 'Heaven' in the title.. Other stories are really morality tales against greed, where greedy individuals get their come-uppance. They can be reminiscent of the original versions of the gorier classic children's fairy tales by Grimm or Anderson, the versions before they got sanitised by a certain American film company. Into this category come 'Parson's Pleasure' - where Dahl takes the reader away just when he or she would want to know the protagonists's reaction - and 'The Champion of the World' . The latter is hilariously farcical at the end. However other stories were less satisfying. 'William and Mary' is just plain bizarre and the idea behind 'Pig' is really not that original. 'Georgy Porgy' made me think of the Robert Aickman story 'Niemandswasser' and Freudian mother-complexes, and my reaction to 'Royal Jelly' was. 'so what?' This book is a real mix.