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"Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive." -- Irish Times The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a r "Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive." -- Irish Times The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a rat-infested hayrick; learning the ways and means of maggot farming; or describing the fine art of poaching pheasants using nothing but raisins and sleeping pills, Roald Dahl brings his stories of everyday country folk and their strange passions wonderfully to life. Lacing each tale with dollops of humor and adding a sprinkling of the sinister, Dahl ensures that this short story collection celebrates the sweet mysteries of life. "All the stories sparkle with vibrant characters, humorous dialogue, and sly rustic lore and cunning." -- Sunday Express "A sophisticated account of village life. The rural characters are molded by Dahl's dark, inquisitive imagination. Compelling and very funny." -- Time Out


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"Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive." -- Irish Times The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a r "Roald Dahl is one of the few writers I know whose work can accurately be described as addictive." -- Irish Times The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a rat-infested hayrick; learning the ways and means of maggot farming; or describing the fine art of poaching pheasants using nothing but raisins and sleeping pills, Roald Dahl brings his stories of everyday country folk and their strange passions wonderfully to life. Lacing each tale with dollops of humor and adding a sprinkling of the sinister, Dahl ensures that this short story collection celebrates the sweet mysteries of life. "All the stories sparkle with vibrant characters, humorous dialogue, and sly rustic lore and cunning." -- Sunday Express "A sophisticated account of village life. The rural characters are molded by Dahl's dark, inquisitive imagination. Compelling and very funny." -- Time Out

30 review for Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Woodall

    Reading this is like having a pipe-smoking, chair-rocking, throat-clearing, peppermint-sucking, lip-smacking Grandfather tell you stories and anecdotes from his childhood or his fantasies despite your Mother expressly forbidding him to do so and frowning at you for encouraging him. But Mother's out with a friend, Father is still at the factory and neither will be home till late, by which time you'll be in bed and Grandfather will have fallen asleep by the fire. Who's going to know?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie G

    Author Born in July, August, or September I love Dahl's children's books and I looked forward to reading some of his adult short stories, but I felt like I just didn't "get" this book. There were a few parts that were funny, but overall I was just bored. I feel like maybe the problem is with me and not with Dahl, I mean seriously, it's Roald Dahl. I'll have to try some of his other adult fiction to see if I get it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Lyon

    As much fun as Roald Dahl's children's books are, I think his talents as a writer are best showcased in his short fiction for adults. To me he's the master of scope. His stories are always exactly the right length for their subject matter. A book of his short fiction is like a well-constructed tasting menu: all the flavor, none of the bloat. "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" collects stories of sympathetic rogues who get bit by their own schemes. The stories in this volume are like light-hearted, rural As much fun as Roald Dahl's children's books are, I think his talents as a writer are best showcased in his short fiction for adults. To me he's the master of scope. His stories are always exactly the right length for their subject matter. A book of his short fiction is like a well-constructed tasting menu: all the flavor, none of the bloat. "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" collects stories of sympathetic rogues who get bit by their own schemes. The stories in this volume are like light-hearted, rural versions of Guy Ritchie's movies. I would be unsurprised if Ritchie's ideas owe a debt to Dahl's stories. This is a great book, and heartily recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    It was as pleasurable to read as "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar". Even though some stories were hard to read up to the end, because of their content, it just added to the fun because the writing was amazing!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    This book was my introduction to Roald Dahl's short fiction, and what an introduction it is! Before then, I was aware (though subconsciously) of his dark wit and antagonistic humor through his children's fiction. In this selection, though, I found him to use that same wit to such ends as O. Henry twists; angry, yet lovable, characters; folk-tales of his own breed; moralizing in a tongue-in-cheek manner ... what a great collection! Included is also the short story that would later become one of h This book was my introduction to Roald Dahl's short fiction, and what an introduction it is! Before then, I was aware (though subconsciously) of his dark wit and antagonistic humor through his children's fiction. In this selection, though, I found him to use that same wit to such ends as O. Henry twists; angry, yet lovable, characters; folk-tales of his own breed; moralizing in a tongue-in-cheek manner ... what a great collection! Included is also the short story that would later become one of his best novels Danny, The Champion Of The World. Roald Dahl's short fiction has since taken a bigger chunk of my time than any of his other fiction and with books like this and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six Others to start you off, you can't go wrong. Roald Dahl's talent as a short fiction author will make you wish that he had never started writing novels but continued this work. This collection epitomizes what makes him one of the best short fiction writers of all time. Do yourself a favor and pick this up as an introduction to his adult work and see what the kids are missing!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I am a sucker for twist endings, and Dahl does not disappoint here.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jacca

    The air of the countryside captured through Roald Dahl's wacky characters and dark imagination. The short stories in here are at times simply a joyous yet strange romp through the lives of a few characters in rural England. At other times the stories are bleak and shocking, yet they perhaps shine their most in those moments of crescendo horror. The stories are rooted in the lives of a few primary characters who recur through each of the tales and each of whom have their own distinctive and persona The air of the countryside captured through Roald Dahl's wacky characters and dark imagination. The short stories in here are at times simply a joyous yet strange romp through the lives of a few characters in rural England. At other times the stories are bleak and shocking, yet they perhaps shine their most in those moments of crescendo horror. The stories are rooted in the lives of a few primary characters who recur through each of the tales and each of whom have their own distinctive and personal charm. Dahl has such a wonderful way of describing people through evocative similes that make his children's books so wonderful and that charm is definitely carried on into his more adult stories. At times the world would take me back to the true rural feeling of exploring my grandparent's farm as a child or hopping on hay bales in the fields at the bottom of our garden. At other times they had me grimacing at the archetypal Dahl twists anyone familiar should expect from him. Remarkably wholesome in spite of its very black humour at times. Certainly enjoyable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Richardson

    I'm a loyal Dahl fan when it comes to children's literature, but this is the first of his adult lit I've read, and I was just as pleased with it as the rest. I cannot seem to get enough of Roald Dahl in my life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anustha Upreti

    This is the weirdest thing i've ever read

  10. 5 out of 5

    Désirée

    Incredibly boring

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pooja Banga

    The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a rat-infested hayrick; learning the ways and means of maggot farming; or describing the fine art of poaching pheasants using nothing but raisins and sleeping pills, Roald Dahl brings his stories of everyday country folk and their strange pa The sweet scents of rural life infuse this beautifully crafted collection of Roald Dahl's country stories, but there is always something unexpected lurking in the undergrowth. Whether it is taking a troublesome cow to be mated with a prime bull; dealing with a rat-infested hayrick; learning the ways and means of maggot farming; or describing the fine art of poaching pheasants using nothing but raisins and sleeping pills, Roald Dahl brings his stories of everyday country folk and their strange passions wonderfully to life. Lacing each tale with dollops of humor and adding a sprinkling of the sinister, Dahl ensures that this short story collection celebrates the sweet mysteries of life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Roald Dahl was my idol growing up as a bookworm. I loved to delve into his works, his sinister, unique twist on childhood and the perils and mysteries within. He was deemed to scary and twisted to be a children's author, but the popularity of his books can't lie! He was a unique storyteller who still stands apart from the rest 21 years after his death. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life is a collection of country stories from his 30's, when he lived and wrote in Missenden, having adventures with his stra Roald Dahl was my idol growing up as a bookworm. I loved to delve into his works, his sinister, unique twist on childhood and the perils and mysteries within. He was deemed to scary and twisted to be a children's author, but the popularity of his books can't lie! He was a unique storyteller who still stands apart from the rest 21 years after his death. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life is a collection of country stories from his 30's, when he lived and wrote in Missenden, having adventures with his strange friend Claud. These stories are beautifully told, descriptive and engaging, and you can hear his voice throughout. He gives his own twist as usual to the characters in the country he encountered in his early years, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every one. This is just one of a number of new editions of his works, and I plan to read more, especially Boy. His writing left an imprint in my heart as a child, and that imprint still stays strong to this day. I cannot wait to introduce my children to him when they are old enough. These books are slim editions available from Penguin. Other titles available are:- Boy Going Solo Roald Dahl's collection of Ghost Stories The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar Switch Bitch My Uncle Oswald Over to You Someone Like You Kiss Kiss Roald Dahl wrote all this life, only writing for 4 hours a day, in the later years from a converted shed at the bottom of his garden. He originally wrote for adults, only later, having a wife and children, did he write children's fiction. James and the Giant Peach is one of his classics, among many others such as The Twits and The Witches, and Matilda, many of which have been made into adorable films.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara Williams

    Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life was the first book by Roald Dahl which wasn't aimed at children that I read. I've always meant to read Swich Bitch and a few of his other works. His children stories, of course, were always heart warming and managed to always leave a smile across my face. I remember cozing and reading Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. So when I found this old copy of a book by the mastermind Dahl, of course I picked it up. The book consists of a few short novels Dahl wrote w Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life was the first book by Roald Dahl which wasn't aimed at children that I read. I've always meant to read Swich Bitch and a few of his other works. His children stories, of course, were always heart warming and managed to always leave a smile across my face. I remember cozing and reading Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. So when I found this old copy of a book by the mastermind Dahl, of course I picked it up. The book consists of a few short novels Dahl wrote while he was staying at the countryside after the war. He recounts some episodes which happened to him and his acquaintances with joy and felt longing. Dahl writes beautifully, especially because he quickly gets to the point but never makes the outcome of the short stories seem obvious. He's definitely skilled in keeping the reader hooked. There were a few stories I sincerely couldn't care less about - and overall the book won't come down as memorable, but there are some truly humurous episodes described here and those are definitely worth reading. I also really love how the endings are always open to obvious conclusions, but still, Dahl never writes them - either the emotions afterwards be happiness, disappointment or utter disgust.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    In many of Roald Dahl's famous books, you can't help but notice the twisted sense of humor he has. Normally he covers it up with a bit of whimsy... OK, a LOT of whimsy. These short stories have all the twisted and none of the whimsy. The author wrote these short stories while he was living in the countryside after the war. I read that he would spend 4 hours a day writing, and the rest of the day out and about in the village and mingling with his neighbors. Many of the stories in this book are at In many of Roald Dahl's famous books, you can't help but notice the twisted sense of humor he has. Normally he covers it up with a bit of whimsy... OK, a LOT of whimsy. These short stories have all the twisted and none of the whimsy. The author wrote these short stories while he was living in the countryside after the war. I read that he would spend 4 hours a day writing, and the rest of the day out and about in the village and mingling with his neighbors. Many of the stories in this book are at least partially based on real people and real events. The last story in the book describes an adventure in pheasant poaching, which was apparently one of Dahl's favorite pastimes. This story also served as the inspiration for my favorite Roald Dahl book, "Danny the Champion of the World". I definitely prefer Dahl's children stories. The ones in this book all have a more dark, even gruesome sense of humor. It was interesting to see the contrast between his writing for children and his writing for adults.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shayan Kh

    2.8 stars. Another one of Roald Dahl's adult stories collection. This one is mostly about Claud, which I believe is one of his friends. I didn't enjoy this book as much as Kiss Kiss because there isn't that much dark twist in any of these stories. I think it is because these stories were inspired by real events. His way with words is great. There are lots of great descriptions in this book. And this is coming from someone who hates descriptions and usually doesn't pay attention to them. So e 2.8 stars. Another one of Roald Dahl's adult stories collection. This one is mostly about Claud, which I believe is one of his friends. I didn't enjoy this book as much as Kiss Kiss because there isn't that much dark twist in any of these stories. I think it is because these stories were inspired by real events. His way with words is great. There are lots of great descriptions in this book. And this is coming from someone who hates descriptions and usually doesn't pay attention to them. So even if the stories lack the twist I loved in the Kiss Kiss collection, I somehow enjoyed them. Although one of my favorite stories in Kiss Kiss was in this collection as well. So I might have rated this book higher if I haven't have read the Parson's pleasure. Because that would have left a better impression in my mind.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pickle Farmer

    I read this book at work during my lunch breaks. Witty, warm, engaging. The story about the ultra creepy rat catcher and his nefarious methods was my favorite. Isn't England the best country ever? Especially in rural areas? Also, the last story seems to be either a retelling or an early version of 'Danny Champion of the World' or wotever it was called--the story of the kid and his dad and their crazy plan to capture massive amounts of pheasants.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hemavathy DM Suppiah-Devi

    It always surprises me (though it shouldn't) how grotesque plot lines can be written so beautifully. This is not a book of idyllic countrywide scenes, or vignettes of charming folk engaged in storybook village activities. Dahl's countryside is cruel and sneaky, horrid and wicked, unhappy and dishonest. It was not a treat to read, and cannot have been enjoyable to write. But he seems to have liked doing it. And since it's non-fiction, it makes the new book perhaps even more dislikeable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    This is a lovely collection of Roald Dahl's short stories that I quite enjoyed. I particularly liked the one with the pheasants, but they're all funny and witty, so I warmly recommend it to anyone who wants to relax in the company of a great book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aj

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have never taken so long to read a book, been so confused, so disgusted and so annoyed, all at the same time! Perhaps my preference for modern-day English made it difficult to comprehend a lot of Gordon's stories, including the dog races. There was a lot of humor but i couldn't exactly point it out. I felt like i had a thick black veil blocking my mind from understanding the stories despite his preface where he did mention his inspiration and history with Claude, but that evidently wasn't enou I have never taken so long to read a book, been so confused, so disgusted and so annoyed, all at the same time! Perhaps my preference for modern-day English made it difficult to comprehend a lot of Gordon's stories, including the dog races. There was a lot of humor but i couldn't exactly point it out. I felt like i had a thick black veil blocking my mind from understanding the stories despite his preface where he did mention his inspiration and history with Claude, but that evidently wasn't enough! i felt the urge to puke at the rat-catcher! EW! How disgusting! I get it that his concept of catching the rats was to be the rat but argh! How ghastly! That Rummins character was a dodgy one, his son Bert too. However, there was quite a bit of comic relief in the story of the commode! That was impressive and who would have thought that people actually ever thought like that? LOL! I must say, i had more downs than ups. Perhaps you'll enjoy it

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonny Keen

    Nice, pastoral writing. Some of the stories have somewhat unsatisfying endings. But this is mostly a pleasant read with some funny bits too. Two warnings; first, don't think this is a kid's book. A seven-year-old I was caring for brought it home from a school book fair and asked me to read it to him. The cover appealed to him and he enjoyed other books by Roald Dahl. A couple of pages in, the prose is talking about filthy cow sex in great detail ("a flash of scarlet penis"). Definitely for a matu Nice, pastoral writing. Some of the stories have somewhat unsatisfying endings. But this is mostly a pleasant read with some funny bits too. Two warnings; first, don't think this is a kid's book. A seven-year-old I was caring for brought it home from a school book fair and asked me to read it to him. The cover appealed to him and he enjoyed other books by Roald Dahl. A couple of pages in, the prose is talking about filthy cow sex in great detail ("a flash of scarlet penis"). Definitely for a mature audience! Second, if you're hyper sensitive about animals, this may be one to avoid. There's a lot of casual mention of animal cruelty which may be upsetting to some. I suppose it was normal in this rural environment, but animal lovers may wish to steer clear.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Macrobugs

    I must say that despite my love for Roald Dahl's literary works this one fell short (literary pun anyone?). It felt like less of a short than chapters in a book about a guy named Claude. Some of the shorts did have his type of surprise ending or twist but for some reason it wasn't as good as others. I would recommend other compilations of shorts that he has, over this one. My perhaps favorite short in this book was The Champion of the World. However, I had read this short in a different complica I must say that despite my love for Roald Dahl's literary works this one fell short (literary pun anyone?). It felt like less of a short than chapters in a book about a guy named Claude. Some of the shorts did have his type of surprise ending or twist but for some reason it wasn't as good as others. I would recommend other compilations of shorts that he has, over this one. My perhaps favorite short in this book was The Champion of the World. However, I had read this short in a different complication of shorts (maybe Skin or The Man from South?). Overall, I feel that if someone was to read this book it would give them an entirely different idea of Roald Dahl than his usual work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Malin

    This is the first of Dahl's book for adults I've read and I must say I like his childrensbooks infinitely better. It's a collection of seven shortstories so I'll grade them induvidually as well as the overall rating. The overall rating is quite tricky. It doesn't deserve 2 stars but 1 is a bit mean...so 1.8 perhaps. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life - 1.7 stars Parson's Pleasure - 3 stars The Ratcatcher - 1 star Rummins - 1.7 stars Mr. Hoddy - 1.9 stars Mr. Feasey - 1 star The Champion of the World - 2 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erica Belham

    This is the first book I've read by Roald Dahl. I'm led to believe that it isn't really typical of his books. Each story stands alone, but there's also a kind-of narrative running through the whole book as well, which I liked. The further I got through the stories, the more I liked them, and indeed the book as a whole. I think the author is great at setting a certain atmosphere, and his descriptions of people are almost second to none - he really brings them to life. I would recommend it, it has This is the first book I've read by Roald Dahl. I'm led to believe that it isn't really typical of his books. Each story stands alone, but there's also a kind-of narrative running through the whole book as well, which I liked. The further I got through the stories, the more I liked them, and indeed the book as a whole. I think the author is great at setting a certain atmosphere, and his descriptions of people are almost second to none - he really brings them to life. I would recommend it, it has a kind-of warm, comforting glow about it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Weird to read Dahl for adults, describing mating cows and such. A lot of the stories seem to just end, a stylistic choice that only pays dividends on Parsons Pleasure, which was built well, while others such as Rummins you’re not even really sure what happens. Dahl is still a brilliant descriptive writer, Ratcatcher a great example even if a bit too weird.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    A somewhat funny collection of short stories about Dahl's time living in the English country side and some friendships he made there. If you only know him from his children's books, you're in for a shock. The first story is about a cow he owned that needed to be serviced by a bull. Quite funny, but definitely not for kids! The last story about pheasant poaching was the funniest.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pharlap

    Down to earth stories from English countryside written soon after the end of the II World War. Warm pictures of people and situations, but always adding a sprinkling of the sinister. In the case of one story - Mr Feasey - I felt tired and disgusted with a long list of cruelties employed by race dog owners to slow down or accelerate their animals.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andreas Sekeris

    Very entertaining and addictive book that I finished quickly. The stories were a great antidote in that bad things happen to bad people. Even when those bad people are Dahl himself! The stories are all about country life in England, so if you thing those sorts of stories are boring you may find it a grind. I really enjoyed them and found them funny though.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Cottington

    Having grown up reading Roald Dahl, I wanted to reread books from my childhood - while also reading some of his other books I hadn't read. This isn't one I've read before and I really enjoyed reading one of Dahl's more adult books. This book is worth a read just for the furniture dealer story, so funny!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Tinkler (Mamajomakes)

    I once heard or read ‘Roald Dahl could write a shopping list and it would be brilliant’. I would give this book three and a half stars. It was funny, in parts, but I think that you’d need to be country resident of a certain age to appreciate it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Lehman

    My favorite in this lot was "Mr. Feasey." Some overlap with Kiss Kiss in the short stories, but all thematically pastoral here. My favorite in this lot was "Mr. Feasey." Some overlap with Kiss Kiss in the short stories, but all thematically pastoral here.

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