Book Review: Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French

Who is in Coma Suite Number 5?
A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife?
All of these. For this is Silvia Shute who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops/
Her past holds a dark and terrible secret, and now that she is unconscious in a hospital bed, her constant stream of visitors are set to uncover the mystery of her broken life. And she must lie there, victim of  the beloveds, the babblings and the plain bonkers.
Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again and again and again...
I missed Dawn French's first book A Tiny Bit Marvellous so I wasn't really sure what to expect from Oh Dear Silvia. It was such a good read though, exceptionally witty and observant  with a very poignant edge.
Silvia Shute fell off her balcony and is now deep within a coma. Obviously Silvia is unconscious so the only way we get to know her is through her visitors and in the main it is not that favourable. There are the children who won't even visit and the ex-husband who is still looking for answers as to what happened to their marriage.
I think my favourite character was Winnie who is Silvia's nurse. Whatever she has going on in her own life, she goes out of her way to care for and protect Silvia. It is easy for coma victims to be treated like objects but Winnie is always striving to make Silvia comfortable and dignified.
I think that Dawn French has been extremely clever in setting up the book as she does. Each chapter is from the individual characters' perspectives but we do  not get a chapter from Silvia until the very end. Therefore you have to interpret what each character is saying about Silvia as she is not able to contradict them. The chapters are almost like streams of consciousness and this allows for a great deal of honesty. Silvia's sister Jo is particularly interesting; she almost only wants Silvia to wake up in her presence so that she can take the praise, she is not too bothered about her sister's well-being.
You are very aware of Silvia's presence as people make their visits. I found myself wondering what she would think about what they were saying. Would she be angry, embarrassed, remorseful, content?
Oh Dear Silvia is a very interesting book. Dawn French, as you would expect, writes with plenty of humour but I loved how observant she clearly is about people and their ways.

Dot Scribbles Rating:  4/5

Many thanks to the lovely people at Penguin for sending me a copy of this book to review, Oh Dear Silvia is out now.


Nadia said...

Dot, you mean Dawn French from The Vicar of Dibley? I love that show! She was hilarious! I'm definitely checking this one out - it sounds so good!

AliceHarold said...

I really enjoyed 'A Tiny Bit Marvellous' so will definitely be reading this.

Jo said...

Yep that Dawn French Nadia!

I have this to read thanks to Amazon Vine must get on with it soon.

I really recommend her first novel, very very good.

Dot said...

Sorry Nadia, it is Dawn French from the fabulous Vicar of Dibley!

One More Page said...

This sounds good - I haven't read anything by Dawn yet but I think I'll give one of her books a go soon x

Jane Henry said...

I got it for Christmas and really loved it. I agree, Dot, Winnie is a fabulous character. Not so sure about the plotting, some of which seemed a little overblown, but the characters were fascinating, and it was such an interesting way to write about illness. It felt very claustrophobic & completely how it is sitting at someone's bedside (tho thankfully haven't had to sit at coma victim's bedside ever). I didn't read A Tiny Bit Marvellous, but I absolutely loved her autobiography, Dear Fatty. It's a wonderfully honest and funny account of her life, and made me like her even more then I did before.

Dot said...

Jane- I shall have to look out for her autobiography!

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