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.
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...
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