Posted 20 hours ago

Oh Dear Silvia: The gloriously heartwarming novel from the No. 1 bestselling author of Because of You

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I was very impressed with the authenticity of each character, as they were all so very different, though you could still sense that some of the characters were connected (Ed and his daughter). Then there’s all this stuff about Cassie living with Ed and Ed’s mum but then halfway through the novel she all of a sudden has a boyfriend Ben who she’s had since he got her pregnant and has been really great and supportive but if that is true then all of the stuff Ed said isn’t. There was something magical (in realistic terms) about "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" and I feared she wouldn't be able to live up to this. Dawn French is a person that almost everyone knows and a person who a lot of people love, simply for her ability to make you laugh. Then, there were other aspects which really irritated me, such as the VERY OVERUSED dialect of Winnie.

The only niggle I can identify is that one of the character’s sections is written in the style of their Jamaican accent (Winnie the nurse).They all seemed unreal to me, including Silvia, who although in a coma, was the largest presence in the book. The writing grew increasingly powerful as the story developed, and the ending was much more moving, and much darker, than I had anticipated. The housekeeper Tia almost seemed like an irrelevant character only brought in to show cultural diversity and an extra point of view. In her career spanning three decades, she has been nominated for six BAFTA Awards and also won a Fellowship BAFTA along with her best friend Jennifer Saunders.

I got on with it much better than I normally would a book where I don't really identify with, or like, the characters appearing early on, but a lot of them were very cariacatured (Tia especially), which grated for a while. It did feel to me as if the author was aiming to up her word count by using this device and when she ran out of steam with one character she could always move on to the next one. Tia is foreign and her children taught her to use lots of swearing and incorrect words when talking - sure, it was funny at the start, but I found it to be tiresome after a while and didn't like it.

The book is written from six perspectives; ex-husband Ed, sister Jo, nurse Winnie, housekeeper Tia, friend Cat and daughter Cassie. I’ll admit that I found it quite difficult to keep up with who everyone was, even in the later stages of the book I had to keep reminding myself who was who and what kind of relationship they had with Silvia largely because the chapters were quite short. I'm a big fan of Dawn French and have read a few of her previous books, so I expected this book to be as good as the rest, how wrong I was ! As expected, there were some hilarious comedy moments from French (I particularly liked the scene with the 'healing' animals - I was laughing out loud!

An interesting, amusing and often poignant exploration of not only how people react when faced with the loss of a loved one but also what they reveal of themselves. Each brings their own issues and slowly reveals Sylvia's past, their issues and relationships with her bringing the reader into the know of just who Sylvia is.Cassie was living at home when she discovered she was pregnant and then a week after telling her mother, she is evicted from the house. She is visited by Ed, her ex-husband, Jo, her older sister, Winnie, her West Indian nurse, Tia, her housekeeper, Cat, her lover and "friend," and Cassie, her estranged daughter. It also makes no sense that he was forced to sleep on his mother's couch when he owns his own successful wood where he spends most of his days. I was disappointed unfortunately, and actually came away from the book feeling annoyed with the characters and quite discouraged and depressed somehow.

The threads of all the different stories come together to a satisfactory and quite bittersweet conclusion. As I am meant to, I started the book feeling certain ways about several characters and slowly and with revelations suddenly found victims and their controllers were switching places, reasons for behaviours were shed light on, misconceptions were cleared. The nurse Winnie was probably one of my favourite characters and I really loved that Dawn French supposedly took inspiration from her ex-husband Lenny Henry and his mother.Summary: After being disappointed by Dawn French's first novel I found this a much better experience, moving and somehow, for a story about a patient in a coma, rather uplifting. All of the visitors, with the exception of her nurse who never knew her and her housekeeper, Silvia seems universally disliked. The concept of a person being multi-faceted was interesting, but it just didn't come across well in the book. There is very little interaction between the different visitors and I found that added to the intrigue and suspense towards the end of the novel and this must have been tricky to get right. The eponymous Silvia is lying in hospital in a coma after having fallen off her balcony, landing three floors below.

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