Monday, 19 November 2012

Oh Dear Silvia

Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French
Hardback, 352 pages

Published 25th October 2012 by Michael Joseph

My shelves:  abuse, adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, cultural, lgbt-characters, medical-conditions, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, to-read
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

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 borings, the babblings and the plain bonkers.

Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again, and again and again...

My thanks go to Michael Joseph for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

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. I've not read anything that has been written by her before, but I have wanted to. When I read the blurb for Oh Dear Silvia, I immediately picked it up and started reading.

I love the idea behind this book - The whole book takes place in Coma Suite 5, where Silvia, a friend, lover and mother lies in a coma. The story is told through several people - her ex-husband (Ed), her sister (Jo), her daughter (Cassie), her 'lover' (Cat), her housekeeper (Tia) and her nurse (Winnie). There isn't really a progressive plot as such, but this is more of a collection of memories, wishes and thoughts have about Silvia and how she has changed each narrator's life. I find books like this very intriguing, so I was interested in seeing what each person had to say.

Though there are quite a few narrators, they were all very distinctive and even if it didn't have their names at the beginning of each chapter, you'd know who they were. 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). I was also impressed with the depth of each character - the character building through the chats to Silvia in the suite was very well done. We get to see many different sides to the characters as they go through various emotional stages. Interaction between the conscious characters was also fantastic, particularly towards the end. I also enjoyed the use of dialect.

As expected, there were some hilarious comedy moments from French (I particularly liked the scene with the 'healing' animals - I was laughing out loud!), which balanced out the more serious backbone of the story. Though this is written by a comedienne, it does have quite a lot of serious issues brought up which added sincerity and seriousness to the writing, which I appreciated. 

To explain my rating of this book, although there was a lot of elements of this book which I enjoyed, it did take me a while to get into it. At first I was very unsure about the book. There were parts that held my attention and some parts I struggled with. At the beginning, I didn't enjoy the writing, particularly the way most of the words were underlined for emphasis.  I got used to it, then different dialects were brought in which, again, made me unsure. I did find Winnie's Jamaican dialect to be charming, though I was unsure about Tia. 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. Our most serious character in the book is probably Ed, who I did enjoy reading about, but sometimes, in contrast with the other characters, felt a little dull.

Overall, I was impressed with Oh Dear Silvia, and though I was unsure of it at first, I was glad that I stayed with it as it improved from the midpoint onwards. I think that this book will appeal to a lot of readers, and I would certainly be willing to read more fictional novels by Dawn French.


  1. I haven't heard of this book before, but it sounds interesting. I tend to like different POV's, but I think I would have troubles with some of the things you've mentioned. I'm glad that you ended up liking it :)


  2. I've been thinking about reading this one so thanks for your detailed review! :) The fact that it took you quite a while to get used to the writing doesn't sound too good but I might still give it a try.


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