Roald Dahl’s The Way up to Heaven
Just when you think the weather is taking a turn for the better and that spring is at long last with us, you’re back in the rain. I find my mood shifting as much as the weather does and in the little time I have left after the day job, I uneasily switch from short story, to book, to magazine and back again.
The Way up to Heaven by Roald Dahl is this month’s short story discussed by members of A curious singularity. Until I picked this up I had not read anything by Roald Dahl, no hard to believe probably but really not. And now, having read this story, I am not convinced that I will read more by him. It’s a peculiarly Agatha Christie type approach, a what happened story, a seemingly tragic death with an uneasy edge because the couple involved are so ultimately not likeable. My first reaction was they deserve each other and I could not really care whether or not she actually tampered with the lift so he died a slow and gruesome death, while she was away visiting their daughter and grandchildren in Europe.
Then of course you think this must be a couple living in the fifties when men were nasty to their wives and would go unpunished because their wives in fact colluded anyway, apparently totally dependent on their approval or agreement. From that point of view Dahl’s portrayal of the couple and how they interact with each other is very nicely done, even if I suspect from a very male chauvinistic point of view. Her idiotic obsession with needing to be on time and his callous responses, making her wait on purpose, the way they interact non-verbally but maliciously, is great writing.
Perhaps then quite a good story after all? I managed to read it quite quickly, sitting on my sofa with a first pre-breakfast cup of coffee on a Saturday morning, and it gave me something to think about while getting on with the rest of the day, as I wondered why I did not particularly like this story. Well, I think it is because I don’t feel much affinity with the setting, the theme or the characters, and definitely no sympathy. Oh well, that’s it then. Time to pick up another book, another story.