Culture Street


Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French

On November 19, 2012

By Sophia Whitfield

Dawn French is a name synonymous with comedy. She is known as Britain’s most famous vicar, the Vicar of Dibley and as the one half of comedy duo French and Saunders.

French now enjoys a comfortable quiet life penning her novels on the windswept Cornish coast. A Tiny Bit Marvelous, her first novel, was everything we have come to expect from French, a superbly funny, well crafted novel. Oh Dear Silvia is a more complex book. It delves into serious territory with a few sidekicks for added comedy.

French has put her main protagonist, Silvia, conveniently into a coma. This allows her family and friends to gather around her informing her of the impact she has had on their lives, in most cases it is a negative one. As Silvia lies motionless in a bed, her life is revealed to the reader through a cacophony of voices.

Ed, the ex husband Silvia left behind, has a voice that drones with boredom. The reader can well imagine why Silvia left. As he speaks to Silvia, he is still grappling with her departure for their marriage and her rejection of their daughter and only grandchild.

Cat, her lover whom she left Ed for, is a highly strung needy creature with a drug addiction that makes her unpredictable and a little scary. As a GP she has access to all the drugs she needs to feed her habit, which she does consistently.

Winnie, the warm hearted Jamaican nurse, is perhaps the most lovable character with her gospel singing and good heart. As she knows none of Silvia’s history, she is simply kind in her care of a woman who has suffered debilitating injuries in a terrible accident.

Jo, Silvia’s sister, is the most comedic character and the one that rings true with French’s more typical style. Determined to help her sister recover from this coma, Jo delves into the realms of New Age therapy. She brings prohibited animals into the hospital under the guise of animal therapy and even at one point invites a stripper in to entertain her comatose sister.

Tia, Silvia’s cleaner, is keen for Silvia to recover so she can begin paying her once again. In the meantime Tia continues cleaning Silvia’s home, paying herself by selling off Silvia’s unused household items on eBay.

Jo and Tia are the characters we expect from French and they are the ones that mould this book.

For those who adore Dawn French and her comedic style there is enough in this book not to disappoint.

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