Is it possible that a story is fanciful and exciting, but at the same time monotonous and kind of dull? I asked myself this question after reading My Uncle Oswald, written by Roald Dahl. This author is known for using his enormous imagination in writings that appeal to children as well as adults. His stories often take place in an unrealistic world, and are full of unexpected events and turns. Fine examples of this we can find in some of his most well known books, like James and the Giant Peach (1961), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and The Twits (1980).
My Uncle Oswald, written in 1979, is no exception in this respect. The story is about a young Englishman called Oswald Cornelius, who adores money and women. Right before he begins his studies in France, he comes up with a brilliant plan which is to make him a rich man: he is going to produce pills that contain powder of a dead beetle from Sudan which can stimulate sexual activity. After doing so, he comes up with a new idea, based on the invention of a professor he happens to know. Professor Arthur Worseley has discovered a way to conserve semen forever. Oswald combines this invention with the powder of the beetle to obtain his main goal: gaining wealth. With the help of the most appealing girl in the world, he collects the semen of important and mighty man all around the world. Think of kings of several countries, scientists and artists like Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. Afterwards, he persuades women to buy the semen in order to have a child from one of these special men.
So, as you can see, also in this book Dahl uses his huge fantasy to write a story with a highly unlikely line. The remarkable characters and unusual events make it fun to read, and urge you to continue reading. At the same time, however, the reader is confronted with a certain monotony. This is caused by the fact that threequarters of the book is about the collecting of the semen, which is being done more or less in the same manner in all the cases. On top of that, I was a little disappointed by the predictability of the end of the book, which I should keep for myself in order to not spoil your reading pleasure.
So, answering the question that I posed in the beginning: yes, it is possible to write an exciting story which is dull at the same time. Mr Dahl offers us an interesting and entertaining story, but the result would have been better if he had made the story more varied and balanced. In this respect, I believe My Uncle Oswald does not belong to the best works of this author. Nevertheless, I’d recommend this book because it is enjoyable to read. But I advise the reader not to set his or her expectations too high, as I apparently did because of the name of Roald Dahl.