If you thought that Roald Dahl’s children’s books were deliciously gruesome (and they are), wait until you see what he has in store for the adults. In Kiss Kiss, Dahl combines horror and comedy to give us eleven memorable short stories. He obviously delights in making his readers feel as uneasy as possible right before pulling the rug out from under them, grinning at the shocked look on our faces. As a teacher, I get to experience some of this joy myself. I am currently teaching this collection to a group of sixteen-year-old students, and every week, I get to watch them as they slowly realise what is going on in each story. One by one, they all suddenly turn to me and go: “Ooohhhhhhh! Oh God, that’s terrible!”
And it is.
The title Kiss Kiss is incredible deceptive, since it implies stories of romance and happy families, but nothing could be further from the truth. These tales explore the dark side of humanity, ranging from marital infidelity and fraud to slashed throats. Most of the stories reveal a shocking twist towards the end, where Dahl suddenly rips away the curtain to reveal the true horror behind it all. This is why I would not advise reading this collection in one go – once you’ve caught on to the pattern, you become completely paranoid and start each new story on your guard, keeping an eye out for anything that might be a sign of what’s to come. It takes all the fun out of the reading experience.
I enjoyed reading this collection and found myself laughing out loud a couple of times, which is really all I wanted from this book. Did it change my life in any way? Do I hold different opinions or see the world in a different light now? No (which is why this is gong to be a really short review). However, I was creeped out and entertained for a couple of hours by a truly creative writer, so I’m satisfied. “The Landlady” is a short story classic and “The Way Up To Heaven” is just wonderful as well, so if you’re looking for a fun book to take your mind off things before you go to bed, Kiss Kiss is a solid choice.
(Fun fact: the story about the birth of Hitler, “Genesis and Catastrophe”, was first published in Playboy magazine.)