Book reviews

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl

Switch Bitch is a collection of four short stories for adults. Each story is a perfect showcase for Roald Dahl’s talent for entertaining readers by creating nasty characters who behave in nasty ways.

The Visitor is an extract from the diary of the fictional Oswald Hendryks Cornelius when he was tom-catting around the Sinai in 1946 at the age of 51. Although Oswald didn’t look dangerous (he wasn’t tall, dark or handsome), he could seduce any woman he wanted with his fascinating voice and a flare of his nostrils. Once the conquest had been made, Oswald moved speedily to his next challenge.

Unfortunately for Oswald, his expensive and glamourous sportscar, a Lagonda, broke down in the desert as he was fleeing his latest victim. Luckily a stranger with an exceptionally beautiful wife and daughter took Oswald in for the night.

For those who are interested, the following photos shows a Lagonda. I was more smitten by the car than by Oswald.

The Great Switcheroo tells the story of two married men who came up with the idea of swapping beds for a night without telling their wives who they would be sleeping with. Moral qualms, anyone? The Great Switcheroo is effectively a story about two men raping each other’s wives.

The main character in The Last Act was a widow who loved her husband dearly. After he died the woman’s doctor put the idea into her head that she would never be happy again until she found herself another man. Despite the doctor’s ridiculous advice the woman eventually moved past the first stages of grief, took a job and found that life was worth living again, until she met up with an old boyfriend who took his revenge on her for having dumped him many years ago.

Bitch was another extract from Oswald Hendryks Cornelius’ diaries. In this account Oswald invested in a perfume which sent men into a frenzy, in the way of a male dog in the vicinity of a female dog on heat. Due to a series of unfortunate incidents all except one sample of the perfume was destroyed, but Oswald managed to save the last sample with the intention of using it to bring down an American President.

The stories all have a nastiness about them but happily most of the darker characters got their comeuppance except for those The Last Act, which was a particularly cruel story. The other three stories were at least amusing, despite the moral questions they raised.

I admire writers who aren’t afraid to write stories that offend or disturb their readers, although I don’t always want to read these types of stories. I suspect this collection won’t be for everyone but for anyone who appreciates dark and twisted characters and doings, it’s hard to go past Roald Dahl.

Comments on: "Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl" (16)

  1. This sounds very misogynistic, Rose! Though perhaps as the men largely get their comeuppance the balance is redressed?

    • The stories are quite misogynistic, but the black humour comes about because the men do get their just desserts. If it wasn’t for that these stories would be unreadable for women.

  2. Hmm… not sure any of these appeal to me much, even if he was telling them humorously! I’ve only read one Dahl short story, the name of which escapes me, but I seem to remember it was about a woman who murdered her husband and ate him, or something along those lines. Always amuses me to think that he’s most famous as a children’s writer!

    • I think Dahl’s children’s stories had an element of nastiness about them, too. They are outwardly funny but scratch below the surface and they are black!
      I feel as if I might have read a story about a woman killing and eating her husband too, but I can’t think what it was. Did she keep him/his cutlets in the freezer?

  3. Hmm I’m not sure this one would be for me, although I have read some of his short stories for adults before. These sound very twisted!

  4. I didn’t even know, he wrote for adults as well. Sounds quite different from Matilda… Not sure if these stories would really appeal to me. At least I would have to be in the right mood to read them. I agree, it’s admirable when authors don’t want to please the readers, but are willing to offend and disturb.

    • So very different to Matilda!
      I think you’re right in saying you might have to be in the right mood to read these stories (a tolerant mood because of the ‘isms’).
      My most-admired writers have this fearlessness in common, but I don’t always like what they have to say.

  5. I love Roald Dahl and the menace of his adult stories is often good fun and you make a good point about his being a writer who isn’t afraid to offend, that’s really being creative I think.

    • I think most people would never say or write what they really thought in case they got locked up! But in this case, the stories are (mostly) darkly funny and very clever.

  6. I only ever think of Roald Dahl as a fanciful children’s author so I’m always extra shocked by his adult stories, I think!

    • I haven’t read any of Dahl’s children’s stories in years, but I feel as if there was a streak of mean in them also. His adult stories take this streak much further! In fairness, he was writing in a different time, too.

      • Yes, I would say you’re right about that. It’s a mean streak that appeals to kids and seems somewhat fitting when you’re talking about characters who are children. It always feels more disconcerting though, I think, when that same mean streak shows up in adults. Very different time though!

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