The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl

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The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: This is the first of a two volume collection of all of Roald Dahl’s short stories with this selection being written between 1944 and 1953. Largely influenced by Roald Dahl’s experiences during the war initially but the subject matter becomes more whimsical and recognisably Dahl later in the collection.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 624 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-1405910101

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Roald Dahl’s name on a book has for me always meant I was in for a fun and imaginative read. His children’s books are the pinnacle of children’s literature and combine fantastic ideas with wordplay and some of the most amusing characters and situations. The stories for a younger audience always managed to thrill and entertain both adult and child and reading them aloud is a joy. In short I believe Roald Dahl was a true master of storytelling. I have however only actually read one of his adult books before reading this collection of short stories.

Due to this being a collection of short stories before even starting to read I wrote in my notepad Highlights with a space for some notes, and Low points again with room to write about any stories that fit the heading. Despite already being a fan of the authors work my experience of short story collections is that they almost inevitably contain a few duds, and a collection of twenty seven of an author’s earliest stories is highly likely to contain a fair few that just don’t quite work. Looking back at my notepad now I should have left a much bigger space for highlights and the empty section under low points seems a real waste of paper.

Primarily set in war time and detailing the exploits of pilots, the earliest stories in this collection are far from the sweet and humorous tales that Dahl weaved so expertly for children. These stories are touching and completely absorbing however and although the authors trademark humour and style isn’t yet apparent at this early stage in his writing career the stories are clearly the work of a great storyteller. The tales within this collection are, from start to finish, very entertaining and all have the fantastic quality of feeling almost like spoken word when reading them; they feel like yarns told in a bar or round a fire and are incredibly engaging because of this.

The stories quickly become more and more reminiscent of the Roald Dahl I have experienced before with more wit, unusual circumstances and unexpected twists. Stories like Lamb to the Slaughter and Man from the South are great examples of intriguing and also slightly disturbing tales that are delivered perfectly and with fantastic little twists and The Wish is an early example of Dahl’s great affinity with, and understanding of children. The situations within the stories become more playful and unusual and more Dahl, progressing from straight stories of war to odd dinner guests, dangerous wagers, polite psychopaths, desperate losers and crazy old ladies.

An early highlight for me is the story Madame Rosette which, despite being set during the war with pilots the protagonists, is a story of exuberance, drunkenness and character. It is slightly far-fetched but strangely believable and very funny; the pilots on a rare weekend off still unable to stop themselves trying to liberate and win hearts and minds.

Skin written in 1952 is another favourite from the collection. It is a devious little story about an old man down on his luck with an incredibly valuable tattoo and an interesting recollection of its origins; this story is pure Dahl with unpleasant aristocracy and a devilish twist.

Many of the collection are incredibly simple stories with a very basic premise that by a lesser author might seem pointless, but it is with some of these stories that Dahl shows his mastery of storytelling managing to make relatively mundane and uneventful accounts really compelling.

This collection shows Roald Dahl developing his style to what we know and love, amazingly though from the very beginning, before finding what would be his literary voice, his stories are works of fantastic narration and are so easy to get lost in. Every story is vivid and gripping and feels effortless; anyone could pick out any story and be magnificently whisked away. Short story collections do not come better than this.

For another brilliant dose of Dahl try Boy: Tales of Childhood.

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Buy The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Complete Short Stories: Volume One by Roald Dahl at


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