The Twits

…by Roald Dahl.

Mr and Mrs Twit are two disgusting individuals. Mr Twit has a long shaggy beard and Mrs Twit has an ugly face due to a lifetime of being nasty and having nasty thoughts. They smell. They don’t wash. They fight. They play tricks on one another. They hate children. They trap birds to eat. And they have a family of four monkeys caged in their backyard to do their bidding. Eventually, the monkeys (Mugglewump and family) with the help of the Roly-Poly Bird and other birds get their revenge on the Twits in a very amusing way…giving them a taste of their own nasty medicine!

This is possibly the funniest Dahl book I’ve read so far and you can bet kids are going to love it. His description of the Twits, particularly Mr Twit is so disgustingly hilarious, you can practically hear kids squealing with delight and disgust. And his insight into some human characteristics is quite amazing. I loved his description of Mrs Twit as being ugly but not because she was born ugly. Rather, as Dahl puts it “If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face” [p. 7]. And following that is a beautiful description of how a light shines out of a person with good thoughts despite physically not being attractive. I think it’s a wonderful thing to teach kids — that beauty is from within! And a special mention must be made to the illustrator Quentin Blake as well. His pictures are pretty funny and add to sensational writing. Finally, Dahl’s creativity shines through once again with terms such as ‘Muggle-wump’, ‘Hugtight glue’, Roly-Poly bird and a few others. It’s a brilliant book for a laugh…even as an adult!

I rate it a 5.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Switch Bitch

…by Roald Dahl.

Switch Bitch is a collection of short stories with the central theme of sex and erotica. If you are a bit prudish, don’t let that put you off the book. Do read on.

The first short story is The Visitor which features one of Dahl’s character’s Uncle Oswald who is known for his sexual escapades with several women. Here, Uncle Oswald finds himself to be an unexpected guest at the mansion of Mr Aziz during his travels in Egypt. As he spends the night flirting with both the wife and daughter of Mr Aziz, he believes he has won them over. And he does get a visit in the night but is unable to tell who it is…

The second story is The Great Switcheroo which is a daring attempt by two married men to switch places in order to sleep with the other’s wife. The planning, the precision and the risk involved are all too great. Does it work out? And can anyone actually win a risky game such as this?

The third story, The Last Act, has as its main protagonist a woman who has lost her husband of many years in a car accident. As she contemplates ending her own life, she is caught up in work which gives her meaning. She reignites contact with an ex-beau but then ending of this contact is one completely unexpected to her. And to the reader.

Finally, the last story, Bitch, also features Uncle Oswald. In this story a scientist attempts to create a scent that will result in a man reacting like a dog when it sees a bitch in heat. However, with such a dangerous scent, the outcome surely cannot be a positive one. Especially when it already involves the incorrigible Uncle Oswald!

All in all, the stories are fascinating with brilliant twists in the end. The consequence of falling prey to lust without thinking of the aftermath is portrayed beautifully without any judgement in all four stories. While the characters may not stand out much (apart from Uncle Oswald), the plots are ingenious and filled with dark humour. Once again, having never read Dahl’s work for adults, I found myself mesmerised enough to read this in one sitting. I would highly recommend this book and give it a rating of 5.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

A Fraction of the Whole

…by Steve Toltz.

This is a massive 700 page debut novel by author Steve Toltz and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Meet the Deans. As Jasper Dean starts off “The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more than any other man, just as they adore my uncle more than any other man. I might as well set the story straight about both of them…”

That statement should give you a hint of the ride you are in for as a reader.

With his father, Martin Dean now dead, Jasper tries to make sense of him while writing from gaol for a reason unknown to readers. Villain or hero? Crazy or sane? He tries to understand some of his father’s schemes to try and make the world a better place. There is one main concern that plagues Jasper: is he going to end up being crazy like his father? Throughout his father’s life, Jasper did his best to keep his distance to avoid the lunacy but at the same time, appeared to have a bond with him. After all, his father tended to have good intentions to begin with but with catastrophic consequences.

Martin Dean was a difficult, paranoid and intelligent man during his time alive. He spent about four years as a child in a coma and once out of it, felt disconnected from the world and outwardly philosophical. All Martin wanted to do was leave his mark behind in this world. And trouble began when people started listening to him. Martin’s sanity is questioned throughout the book. The uncle adored by the whole of Australia, Terry Dean, was a sporting hero in his younger days and a criminal later when plagued by injury. But a Ned Kelly type vigilante who was out to get all the sporting cheats. And hence, looked at as a hero. However, Terry is eventually captured and presumed to have died in a bushfire that ravaged the prison.

Jasper takes us on this rollercoaster journey through his father’s and uncle’s lives (narrated at times by Martin) and his father’s crazy adventures, how his father comes up with a way of making everyone in Australia a millionaire, gets married to his childhood sweetheart becomes the prime minister, then becomes the most hated man in the country, flees the country with Jasper to Thailand and his own story of jetting off to Europe to search for his absent mother’s past.

All in all, it’s a fun read and keeps you hooked to know more about the characters. It has its laugh out loud moments and its “you-can’t-be-serious” ones too. It’s a riot and one hell of a ride! A great achievement by a debutante. About Australia. About being able to not take yourself too seriously. And about craziness and lunacy of human beings. And how in life, in the end, there are only a few important people who matter. I would give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

***This review has been cross-posted on my personal blog***