Posts Tagged With: Dawn French

A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French

Meet the Battles: Mo, the mother is fast approaching 50 and feels grey inside and out.  The sparkle has gone out of her life and out of herself, and even though she’s a trained child psychologist, she doesn’t seem to understand her own children.

Dora is nearly 18, and is struggling to juggle her friends, her boyfriend woes, her dreams of becoming a pop star and her addiction to Facebook.

Peter is 16 and insists on being called Oscar, after his hero Oscar Wilde.  He is very intelligent, if perhaps slightly delusional and is about to develop a crush on a most unsuitable candidate.

Even the poor dog Poo has landed in a sticky situation – pregnant by an unknown suitor!

The story is narrated by these three characters, who also make references to their husband/father who’s always in the background trying to hold everything together.

The family are all living in their own worlds, and they’re lurching slowly from one crisis to the next one, and at some point things are going to collide…

Earlier this year I read Dawn French’s autobiograph of sorts (‘Dear Fatty’), which I enjoyed but found difficult to initially get into.  I had no such difficulties with this book, which captured my attention from the beginning.  It’s alternated in turn by Mo, Dora and Peter/Oscar, and the three voices are very distinct.  However, I did think that Dora’s character in particular was very much a stereotype (although this did not stop me warming to her as the story progressed).

The book is essentially a comedy, and while it did not make me laugh out loud, it certainly made me giggle and smile a lot.  However, in amongst the comedy, there were some touching moments.  Oscar, who seems so self-obssessed for much of the story, proves that he can be caring and thoughtful.  And it’s not long before the combative and stroppy Dora is soon revealed to be lacking in self confidence and uncertain about her future.  However, I did find some of her segments slightly jarring (because she like, overused like the word ‘like’ constantly), due to the exaggerated teenage language.

The husband, who for the most part is only known to the reader through the words of his family easily comes across as the most sympathetic member of the family, closely followed by Mo’s mother Pamela, who is also only known to the reader through the words of the family.

My favourite parts were those narrated by the fabulously intelligent Oscar, who has clear delusions of grandeur.  While it would have been easy to dismiss him as ego-centric and self absorbed, he showed moments of genuine tenderness and thoughtfulness.  He loves to talk in the style of Oscar Wilde, and his observations and remarks were often acidly funny.

Overall, while some parts of the book were slightly cliched and predictable, there was plenty to enjoy in this book, and I would recommend it.

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Dear Fatty by Dawn French

Dawn French is of course well known as one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders (Jennifer Saunders is in fact the “Fatty” referred to in the book’s title).  This is Dawn’s biography of sorts – it is told in the form of various letters to people who have played some role in her life.

Many of the letters are written to her father who committed suicide when Dawn was just 19 years old.  The memories of him and his love have clearly been a huge force in her life and she writes honestly and openly about the good and the bad times she spent with him.  Other letter recipients include her mother, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn’s husband Lenny (Henry), her Best Friend (BF, whose name is never revealed in the book), old schoolfriends, Val Doonican, Madonna and The Monkees.

Some parts of the book read better than others.  The earlier letters, which more or less chart Dawn’s childhood and early family life were not as interesting as the later ones, which tell her life from the age of about 20.

Family is clearly of huge importance to her – when she writes about her parents, husband and daughter and her brother, the love comes shining through and is genuinely touching.  I admired her honesty in talking about a rough patch her marriage went through – she described her whole gamut of emotions, from anger to fear to forgiveness in a way that was easy to empathise with.  Another letter which actually moved me to tears (and highlighted the perils of reading while waiting in a supermarket queue) was the one to her friend Scottie, who died of AIDS – yet she juxtaposes the sadness with a hilarious tale about her mission to scatter Scottie’s ashes in the location he had intended.

Comic relief (no pun intended) is provided through a number of her letters to Madonna (who repeatedly refused to appear on the French and Saunders show) and doting-schoolgirl missives to The Monkees and David Cassidy.  I also enjoyed reading about the early days of the Comic Strip, and her work on The Vicar of Dibley.

Overall, after a slow start, this was an enjoyable read, which perfectly illustrated the warmth and humour for which Dawn French is so much admired and loved.

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Dear Fatty by Dawn French

Dawn French doesn’t need any introduction – she is a well known comedy actress, loved by many, and is most well known for being half of French and Saunders, and as the wonderful Vicar of Dibley.

What surprised me about this autobiography is the fact that the focus isn’t really on her career, and her fame. It’s certainly a large part of the book, outlining her early days in the Comic Strip, the films she took part in, as well as her recent roles.

However, the fascinating aspect of this book is the way that Dawn shares her life growing up, the relationships she’s had, her heartaches and her joys. She fiercely loves her family, her friends, and her colleagues, and that shines through. (However, she most certainly does not like Madonna! ;))

The book is written as a series of letters, to various people.. a large proportion of these are written to her father, and it’s easy to understand why, as he had such an affect on her. One particular letter had me in tears, and I was so glad to see Dawn reaching a type of resolution by the end of the book.. which did make for a good place for it to finish.

Dawn’s voice is obvious in the book, you can almost hear her speaking it in your mind.. in her own unique style. There are serious moments in the book, but the humour that you expect is always there. Who else would write a letter to her niece, talking about her life ahead of her.. including what it may be like to have a big bosom?!

For anyone who has enjoyed watching Dawn French over the years, I would highly recommend this autobiography, not only as a peek into her life, but also as a better understanding of the sort of person she is.

Published by Random House

Hardback 8 Oct 08 / CD 6 Nov 08

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