Category Archives: Dawn French

A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French

Before I go any further I should apologise to my mother who bought me ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’, which is comedienne Dawn French’s debut novel, last Christmas as it was one of the books of 2010 I most wanted to read, and didn’t. I was desperate to read it back then as it was by Dawn French, who I have always found funny and so had high hopes. She’d written it herself (some don’t let’s be honest) and I hoped it would have all the warmth and humour that her TV shows have had, from The Vicar of Dibley to Murder Most Horrid, over the years. I had also really enjoyed her autobiography when I read it a few years ago, but would her humour tanslate again?

Penguin Books, hardback, 2010, fiction, 432 pages, kindly bought by my mother last Christmas (oops)

‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ is really a bit of a family drama. The family in question are the Battle family who consist of Dad, Mum (Mo), Dora, Peter and Poo the dog. Through diary entries from Mo (as she heads for 50), Dora (enduring the tricky teenage times that almost 18 brings) and Peter (who likes to be called Oscar as he believes he is Oscar Wilde) we get a snapshot of family life as the Battle family go into quite a tumultuous time. It’s hard really to say much about a plot other than things happen, some big some small, which ripple through the family and we see from these three characters.

In fact it’s the characters which really are the stars of ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’. Mo being rather frank about the fact she feels like an almost fifty year old frump, along with the fact that whilst being a psychologist she has no idea what is going on in her children’s heads. Dora has been freshly dumped and dreams of becoming the next famous sensation on the X Factor rather than having to study or do any work, whilst also having a bit of venom towards her mother who clearly doesn’t understand her. My favourite was Peter, or Oscar, and his hilarious dialect as he goes through life believing he is, or has been channelling, Wilde is absolutely hilarious especially when he becomes smitten with someone. I laughed and laughed. All three of these characters live and breath and with the diary entries showing completely conflicting reactions and readings of situations there’s much humour, and reality, here too. I also found I wanted more of the secondary characters like Mo’s mother Pamela, who was hilarious and who stole scenes here and there, I could have read even more of these people who came and went.

The only things that slightly let the book down a tiny bit for me was the utter focus of the relationship between Mo and Dora, when there were so many more strands I wanted to hear about, I also wondered where Dad (or The Husband) was in all this, he then arrives plays a pivotal role and yet is never really there. I couldn’t work out the reasoning for this, was French trying to say something here or was he just not really at the heart of her story or interest?

Whatever the case with these two glitches they were small niggles because overall I really enjoyed ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ it made me laugh, took me back to the nostalgia of my awkward teenage years and also really surprised me with the ending. I’m hoping that this won’t be the only novel that Dawn French writes because I would welcome reading another.

So which celebrities turned authors have you read which you enjoyed and could actually write? What have your favourite novels with a comedy family feel?

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Filed under Dawn French, Penguin Books, Review

Dear Fatty – Dawn French

I absolutely adore Dawn French she is one of the nation’s greatest comediennes and actors and also one of the nations treasures (a lot like Julie Walters whose autobiography I nearly picked up instead of this one but am holding off for now) and after an amazing 20 years in the limelight she has written her autobiography. This however is not quite an autobiography as she points out it is in fact a book of her memoirs written to people in her life throughout her life and I simply loved the whole collection.

A huge part of the book is written to her father who committed suicide not long before she got a place at The School of Speech and Trauma as she calls it ‘Dear Dad, so you’re still dead’. These letters though sad are a delight and whilst very funny in places also show a very raw side of Dawn French that you don’t tend to see behind the humorous woman she shows in her interviews. Her letters to her father deal with times in her life when he was there and times in her life when she wished that he could have been there. I learnt so much about her childhood through these letters I had no idea that as a daughter of someone in the RAF she spent a lot of her time travelling the country and other parts of the world never really settling down, something she is now incredibly keen to do. An episode involving the queen mother is actually one of the funniest parts of the book.

She covers her teenage years and those turbulent teenage times through letters to her daughter and younger relatives. She is completely happy to divulge the negative parts of it and all the kissing and hormones in letters to both some of her ex boyfriends and some of her icons at the time. I loved a letter of all the people she’s kissed and the comments she has on the experiences. Speaking of icons interspersed amongst the letters to family and friends she writes some incredibly funny ones to Madonna who famously has refused to appear on every series of French and Saunders ever.

Whilst there are lots of belly laughs in this book there are some incredibly raw and open parts. There is a letter to Lenny Henry, her husband, telling of the ups and the downs that marriages can have and looking at those in an incredibly open way. I think bar one of the letters to her father the most touching letter she writes is one to her daughter Billie regarding her adoption and how much her birth mother loved her to have to give her away, its both fascinating and emotional and beautifully written.

If you are looking for lots of gossip on celebrities and her times with Jennifer Saunders (or Fatty as she is addressed in letters that are just very long jokes and very funny) and the Vicar of Dibley etc then this has those in the background they are not the main part of the book. What it focuses on is what has made Dawn French who she is today and most importantly by writing to them, who the people are who have made her who she is today.

I have read a lot of autobiographies in my time and they can be sensationalist and show you a very rosy side of the author. This is an upfront no holes barred autobiography that looks at people from all walks of life and how one girl became one of the nations most famous funny faces and it was the insights into her family members, pets and events in her youth that I found so entertaining and make this one of the best, if not the best autobiographies I have read. You have no excuse not to read this book. I could have read this much quicker than I did however I wanted to savour every page. A must buy and one of my books of the year.

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Filed under Books of 2008, Dawn French, Random House Publishing, Review