The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Switch Bitch: A Review

This post contains mentions of rape and suicide. Please seek professional help if these trigger unwanted thoughts or feelings for you. 

Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl? Who wasn’t enthralled with fantastical stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda? I was stoked to find Switch Bitch, a collection of 4 short stories for adults written by the legendary storyteller.

(An aside: I found this copy at Brisbane’s Lifeline Bookfest. It was sold to me for 50 cents as they mistakenly thought it was a children’s book. They could not have been more wrong.)

The Visitor

A man arrives home to find twenty eight volumes of his (presumably deceased) uncle’s diaries. Uncle Oswald details his global quests to bed women and collect interesting arachnid specimens. The story largely follows Oswald’s exploits as a visitor to a grand castle in the Middle East when his car breaks down and his attempts to bed a mother-daughter combo.

If you’ve ever read any other Roald Dahl story, he loves a twist at the end and these short stories are no exception.

It’s quite a good tale with an amusing twist at the end.

The Great Switcheroo

Unfortunately the next three stories are appalling. All four stories were once published in Playboy magazine, which gives you an idea of the target demographic and the fantasy delights held by its readers.

Two men concoct a plan to have sex with each other’s wives, without the wives knowing. This is rape. It’s not ok. It is not consensual if one party is mislead to believe she’s with her husband.

I felt physically ill reading this story. This was not the storyteller I thought I knew.

The Last Act

Anna has just lost her husband of twenty-something years. He’s the only man she’s ever been with. She’s suicidal but throws herself into work. On a business trip interstate, she calls an old flame and, of course, they end up in bed.

She freaks out and leaves him to his own devices while she presumably considers taking her own life again in the bathroom.

Atrocious. The biggest problem with this story apart from the suicide was the description of Anna. She’s a housewife who didn’t know any better. She’s seemingly portrayed as being in control but she lives for patriarchal approval.


Wow. Saved the worst for last.

We meet Uncle Oswald again. This time he’s investing in a perfume guaranteed to drive any man wild. Literally. Once a woman applies this magic liquid, any man within a couple of metres will be overcome by instinct and want to mate with her, whether she’s ready or not. The perfume is called Bitch, as if it is the woman’s fault she’s about to be raped.

Uncle Oswald plans to spray some on the neck of a woman who will be standing next to the President of the United States as he makes a national address, with the idea that POTUS will rape the woman on live television, be impeached and ousted as President.

Yes, this is rape. On national television. Naturally there is a twist and this idea never comes to fruition, but that is not the point. This is a vile situation and a little too close to current world affairs.

This is not the Roald Dahl I’ve loved since childhood. This is a collection of horrific stories which have no place in this world. His master storytelling is, as always, apparent. But the material is vile. Steer well away from this at all costs.


June 25, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


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Grief sucks. It’s a natural response to loss, most often triggered by death of a loved one (person or pet).

I’ve had a project in mind for quite some time. Several years ago, a friend lost her child to cancer and something she said at the time has stuck with me: I just wish people would say something. By keeping silent, she felt people were not validating her loss.

Although she has a lot of friends on and offline, she felt few of them reached out to her to offer condolences. People just don’t know what to say, especially when the loss is too horrible to comprehend.

Since then, I’ve wanted to write a book about dealing with grieving people. There’s tons of information, books, and websites about how to deal with grief, but not about what to say to grieving people. Grief is something that happens to all of us – why is it so hard to find something to say? Obviously, nothing is going to make the grief suddenly go away, but people generally find comfort in others.

To get started on this project, I’ve devised a survey. It’s a series of questions about events that trigger grief and how you felt when people did or didn’t respond. The survey takes around 20 minutes depending on the detail of your answers: I’m ever so grateful for as much detail as possible. There’s no identifying information, unless you’ve already told me the circumstances of the tragedy. Otherwise, I have no idea who wrote what. Individual answers may be included in the book.

If you’d like to participate, please follow the link:

Much love to you, and I am sorry for your loss.




June 21, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

After: A Conversation


This post contains mentions of suicide and depression. If this post triggers similar thoughts in you, please seek professional help immediately.

In October 2015, Nikki Gemmell’s mother Elayn self-euthanised.

What follows is a raw look at Elayn’s life, death and their mother-daughter relationship. Nikki and Elayn’s relationship was strained. Elayn wanted a perfect daughter: smart, pretty, popular, famous. Nikki was berated for not being those things and this formed the narrative of her life. But, ELayn was still hr mother and deeply loved. When she committed suicide, Nikki and her brother were called upon to identify the body and answer the police questions surrounding the death. Nikki couldn’t call it suicide, she preferred “self-euthanasia”.

This book forced me to examine my own relationship with my mother but also the relationship with my daughter. Although my daughter is only two, am I being the mother I want to be and the mother she needs me to be? There is no chance I’m ever going to tell her she’s ugly, or I wish her friend was my daughter instead of her, or she needs to earn my love. My own mother never told me any of those things either; in fact my mum always told me how proud she is of me.

Nikki refers to the Japanese practice of kintsugi, which is the repair of ceramics with a fine gold paste to create a new history of the object instead of disguising the repair. Kintsugi is a metaphor for their relationship, creating something different and unique rather than disguising a repair. It’s a beautiful background for something so heartbreaking.

Elayn suffered depression after foot surgery a year prior to her death. She cried out for help yet also pushed it away, believing herself to be a burden on her adult children. Nikki’s inbox was full of emails asking for help with shopping or medical appointments, with an outbox full of “Sorry mum, too busy”. It’s not a reflection of tension within the mother-daughter symbiosis, it’s a reflection of a mum’s busy life. Nikki has four kids who have a full calendar of after school and weekend activities.

I’ve written before that toddlers are quite difficult people. She does drive me crazy because I have little patience, particularly for toddlers who haven’t had a nap and draw on my bedsheets with markers or spit in my Milo. It’s these moments which draw out my cranky side and I’m only slightly less than perfect in my parenting. It’s probably not the moment she will remember, hopefully those are negated by trips to the park or library, playing trains or animals on the floor of her room, or the endless readings from her favourite books. I do hope that one day far into the future, she’s not writing painful memories in her own best-selling book about the fractured relationship with her mother.

Inspired by the book, last week I asked my mum about her plans for her death. Funeral, songs, friends. It’s a conversation people avoid yet everyone will go through. Funerals are for the living. They are a celebration of one’s life and should reflect the good parts of life. For Elayn’s funeral, Nikki and her siblings draped Elayn’s extensive collection of scarves over each pew with an invitation for guests to take them home to remember Elayn. In my mum’s case, perhaps I’d be leaving out her extensive DVD collection?

This started as a review of After, but it is impossible to critique a personal recollection of one’s grief. Nikki’s writing is deeply personal. She’s a writer’s writer so you may need a dictionary nearby. She examines her mother as her mother, as a mother herself, as a daughter and as a person. Sometimes we forget our mums are people too, with their own lives and a whole life before we were even born.

It’s a recommended read, but it is harrowing in parts. Her own story forces you to examine your own relationships for better or worse. There is so much to take away from her story and weave into your own.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , | Leave a comment