Posted 20 hours ago

Oh Dear Silvia: The gloriously heartwarming novel from the No. 1 bestselling author of Because of You

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Ed doesn't like sister Jo either and that just makes the whole bed-watching a chore and very painful. I didn’t like many of the characters apart from Winnie and Cassie (and Willow), but it was interesting to read how their stories interacted as they talked with Silvia - their friend, ex-wife, employer, mother and patient - who was in intensive care in a coma. I've read Dawn French's first book, "A Tiny Bit Marvellous", which made me howl out loud throughout and which was seriously funny and a tiny bit shocking. I was disappointed unfortunately, and actually came away from the book feeling annoyed with the characters and quite discouraged and depressed somehow.

The threads of all the different stories come together to a satisfactory and quite bittersweet conclusion.

And just like with "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" you finish the story with a sense of warmth, and also with the feeling that the book couldn't have ended any other way. Penguin (Australia), whose “Australian” book is peppered with –ize endings, you’re better than this too. It also seems like a cop-out that every accusation every leveled at Silvia occurs when she's unconscious and unable to respond. I spent the majority thinking, well this isn't funny, she'd never be allowed to light candles in a real hospital because the alarms would go off and she'd be chucked out on her ear by security. I’m betting there are some really comical as well as serious thoughts coming from each of these visitors.

I couldn't fully understand why Tia was there as a character because she had no real emotional connection with her employer and therefore it seemed odd that she would be visiting her in hospital. Nevertheless every character had merit, and I liked the way each character and their visits throughout the novel helped you learn something new about Silvia, and them, and effectively shapes how you feel as a reader towards Silvia as the book evolves.So, I approached her new novel with a little trepidation, unsure as to whether she deserved a second chance. The only niggle I can identify is that one of the character’s sections is written in the style of their Jamaican accent (Winnie the nurse). The concept is original, the structure is flawless, the characters are all fully realised, the dialogue is very human and real, the plot twists are genuinely shocking, the funny sections are really funny and the sad bits had me weeping openly in my car on the way to and from work.

The nurse Winnie was probably one of my favourite characters and I really loved that Dawn French supposedly took inspiration from her ex-husband Lenny Henry and his mother. An interesting, amusing and often poignant exploration of not only how people react when faced with the loss of a loved one but also what they reveal of themselves. It's ironic that Silvia is the focus of this novel, because as a reader, I never got a sense of who she was or what exactly motivated her actions. As the story unfolds, we learn that each of these people has a different view of who Silvia Shute is and what she means to them differs vastly.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. They must be Dawn French fans and so am I, but her books are bestsellers because of her name, not her writing talent. It did feel to me as if the author was aiming to up her word count by using this device and when she ran out of steam with one character she could always move on to the next one. Her first three novels, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, Oh Dear Silvia and According to YES, are all Sunday Times bestsellers. Summary: After being disappointed by Dawn French's first novel I found this a much better experience, moving and somehow, for a story about a patient in a coma, rather uplifting.

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