Friday, 30 August 2013

Someone Like You

Someone Like You
Roald Dahl
London, Penguin, 2011, 355p
(World Book Night 2012)

This novel has been sitting on my shelf for ages, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it to find it was a collection of short stories. It was just what I needed for the last few days of my holiday - intelligent, witty little bites of fiction. 

Someone Like You consists of a number of short stories written for adults. These are tales of gambling and murder, but told in such a way that you cannot help but read with a smile on your face. Dahl is one of the most hilarious and macabre writers - he is the master of the twist in the tale. 

In most of these stories, the protagonists is the cause of their own demise. Dahl entices you into empathising with these characters, but through ego or stupidity, the hero ends up in ruins. In just a few pages, Dahl is able to build up tension to the point that you find yourself laughing with shock and amusement as the plot suddenly turns in an unexpected direction. 

The ones that particularly stood out to me were the more wicked of the stories. Lamb to the Slaughter begins with a woman excitedly awaiting the return of her husband from work, but things take a dangerous twist when he tells her is leaving her. You read in awe as the events unfold and delight in the strangeness of it all. 

I think what is incredible about these stories is that they are both realist and surreal. The characters are not great works of imagination and the tales begin as narratives of everyday lives. But the twists and turns take you into a dreamlike world where the darkest of fantasies come to life. 

It is similar to the sensation when you might be really angry at someone, and imagine punching them in the face, but of course do not actually take action. Dahl writes those wicked fantasies into short story form, allowing the reader to release some pent up frustrations by laughing at what might happen if you did succumb to your darkest desires.

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