Cover image for Ah, sweet mystery of life
Ah, sweet mystery of life
Dahl, Roald.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1990.
Format :


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Material Type
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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Orchard Park Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life is a collection of seven hilariously creepy Roald Dahl stories published in various magazines and collections in the '40s and '50s, and gathered here for the first time. With the classic Dahl mixture of charm and charmingly perverse, these stories remind us that the mystery of life isn't always as sweet as it seems.

Author Notes

Roald (pronounced "Roo-aal") was born in Llandaff, South Wales. He had a relatively uneventful childhood and was educated at Repton School. During World War II he served as a fighter pilot and for a time was stationed in Washington, D.C.. Prompted by an interviewer, he turned an account of one of his war experiences into a short story that was accepted by the Saturday Evening Post, which were eventually collected in Over to You (1946).

Dahl's stories are often described as horror tales or fantasies, but neither description does them justice. He has the ability to treat the horrible and ghastly with a light touch, sometimes even with a humorous one. His tales never become merely shocking or gruesome. His purpose is not to shock but to entertain, and much of the entertainment comes from the unusual twists in his plots, rather than from grizzly details.

Dahl has also become famous as a writer of children's stories. In some circles, these works have cased great controversy. Critics have charged that Dahl's work is anti-Semitic and degrades women. Nevertheless, his work continues to be read: Charlie and Chocolate Factory (1964) was made into a successful movie, The BFG was made into a movie in July 2017, and his books of rhymes for children continue to be very popular.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

An antique dealer posing as a clergyman to help his business turn a larger profit is one of the con artists, poachers and thieves who inhabit the rustic community introduced in these seven stories. According to PW , ``Dahl shrewdly uses ostensibly simple fables as vehicles for richly mordant examinations of human foibles.'' (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-- Written in the late 1940s, these seven short stories were originally published in American magazines and are collected here for the first time. The secret of determining the sex of a calf, the parson who collects antiques by duplicity, the illegal greyhound races using a ringer, the ingenious poaching methods for pheasant using raisins and sleeping pills, and a proposed maggot factory are among the everyday occurrences in a British village, related with deft craftsmanship in Dahl's unmatched style. A touch of irony, unexpected endings, and a hint of the wicked and shocking are couched in Dahl's brand of humor; young adults will accept the gruesome details as natural and entertaining. Black-and-white line drawings complement the text with character illustrations. A book that's useful for readers interested in writing, humor, and memorable characters and a possibility for booktalk introductions. --Julia M. Losinski, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Hyattsville, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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