book review: roald dahl’s someone like you

roald dahl’s book “someone like you” is hardly like him! i’ve grown up on a steady fare of matilda, boys, james and the giant peach and willy wonka- and this book was a surprise. let me be honest here – it was so much of a surprise that the first time i started it… i abandoned it. it was so NOT dahl. but then we readers think it’s our right to judge writers for what’s them and what’s not.

so, i gave it a shot again this week.

roald-dahl-someone-like-you

“someone like you” is a really good read. yes, i’m changing my mind here.

it’s dark, it surprised me in bits and made me pay attention. i think this is what they call black humour… i wondered why roald dahl kept this side of himself locked up – it almost seemed like he had two writers within himself? as i even say that aloud i realise in all his books, even the ones for children, there is a tone of questioning what is accepted, of pushing those boundaries and of telling a story that at times, seems bizarre. whether it’s mr. wonka and his crazily imaginative factory or it’s matilda with her super powers, there is always an undercurrent… in this set of stories, it’s like he hasn’t suppressed it but let it bloom. that undercurrent pours out and covers the pages and surprises the traditional dahl fan…

there are around 18 stories, four of which are part of a series. you might have read “lamb to the slaughter” – that is probably the most direct story of them all. the rest are more crooked, if i can say that….

SPOILER ALERT

“skin” with its almost twisted but expected ending, leaves you thinking about the world. it made me wonder about how materialistic and inhuman we’ve actually become. this story just pushed home the truth in a rather graphic and disturbing way… we can walk over, trample and kill anyone for our own pleasure.

“dip in the pool” was sad. it made me feel bad for that stupid old fool who couldn’t face his own mistakes. and then life made a bigger fool out of him. does that happen to me when i don’t ‘fess up?

“galloping foxley” was wicked. all of us have been bullied at sometime in our lives. it’s important to see what we let that do to us. i let myself bully two other kids for a few months, because suddenly i had the power… fortunately, i stopped. one day when i was 8 i just said i would never bully anyone ever again. maybe that’s why i didn’t take part in the ragging during my second year at post grad college.

the twist at the end was not one i expected… this story had me stopping and wondering if i got it wrong, if there was something i was missing. therein lies the beauty of it.

“the neck” lays in front of you the workings of a human mind. it’s about jealousy, and how none of us, however we might seem from outside, are able to be immune to it. i was so taken into the story that at the end i wish he’d just killed her with the axe – why didn’t he?

“the wish” is brilliant. it feels like neil gaiman was that kid. i’m sure he was as imaginative as a kid… that’s how i’ve read the story, i refuse to believe anything bad happened in the end. i just refuse.

“nunc dimittis” is sad. revenge is a frightful thing unless you are bloody sure it’ll happen the way you planned it!

i really enjoyed the book. and i’m surprised i put it down the first time. tells me a lot about false expectations, and how that could affect enjoyability of an experience. i wonder what else i’ve dismissed because it didn’t fit my expectations! whoa, not a nice thought – but i’ll now be more aware! i enjoyed this avatar of roald dahl and might even say he was the original neil gaiman (since my new favourite is mr. gaiman himself – and i’ve read so many of his books in my personal challenge). dahl creates worlds so similar to yours but still fantastical. he reads minds and lays them out bare in front of you, not hiding the inner workings.

____________

i put down the book and chose to write this review before i finished the last story…  i’d had an epiphany. “someone like you”… the title of the book was talking to ME and YOU. each of those characters was like any of us, we could be as lost, as crooked, as warped and as dysfunctional. oops!

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