Book Review: “Kiss Kiss” (1960) by Roald Dahl


Illustration by Elise Stevens.


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.)

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: “Kiss Kiss” (1960) by Roald Dahl

  • September 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Oh no! I’ve basically sworn to myself to never read one of Roald Dahl’s adult fiction books. My mother used to tell of some of the stories she read in college, and this re-telling was enough to completely freak me out. But your review sounds so inviting, I might just read that one collection, just so that I can say that I had this experience.
    (Plus, lately I’ve been trying to write more frightening stories myself and I could use a good example for how it’s done.)

    Best wishes,

    • September 7, 2015 at 9:48 am

      Your mother must be a great storyteller! And I’d say that the first story in the collection, “The Landlady”, sets the tone for the rest of the book, so if you don’t like that one, you can still decide to put it down and read something else instead.

      I think that writing a truly frightening story is a difficult thing to do (and not just because what people fear can vary so wildly). Creepy, macabre, sure, but frightening is difficult to pull off. Best of luck, and let me know if you need any reading recommendations!

  • October 1, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I had no idea Dahl did adult work! This just made my day. His children’s literature is already so twisted, I can’t wait to start this.


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