It wouldn’t be Christmas without Dawn French, whether it’s re-runs of The Vicar of Dibley, or any one of her catalogue of film appearances, her on-screen presence is a vital part of the festive season. This year however, her unmistakable tone of voice can be enjoyed on the pages of her latest book – Oh Dear Silvia.
The autumnal release of the novel made for pretty apt timing as far as seasonal reads go, because there is something of the ‘ghosts of Christmas Past’ in this story. The protagonist, Silvia Schute, is in a coma, after a rather mysterious accident, and it appears she is not the most popular of people.
As her family and friends come to visit and enter into a series of monologues, we discover the trials and tribulations of what initially appears to be a perfectly averagely dysfunctional family – divorced parents, angry kids, mad relatives – descending into a web of the type of dramas and social issues prevalent in the pages of the tabloids and election campaigns … although it does seem rather unfortunate that the whole lot have crash landed on this one family.
At times humorous, at times deeply sad, the book is always easy to read, despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, and is infused with French’s talent for human observation, which stops elements of the book from teetering over the edge into total melodrama, and keeping it engaging throughout.
All in all, at this time of year, when you are curled up on the sofa, happily full-to-bursting with turkey and all the trimmings, it is a far better person than I that wants to delve into the pages of a weighty tome. So an engaging tale from an author we all kind of wish was a guest at our own dinner table, is just the ticket. If nothing else, you will have a whole new level of appreciation for your own nearest and dearest – however many arguments may have ensued by the time the last present is unwrapped.
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