Tag Archives: Dawn French

Autobiographies & Memoirs…

Earlier today I was on the hunt for some black jeans at my local very large supermarket, that will remain unnamed. I have mentioned before that I often find supermarket shopping quite stressful and so I headed off to the book section which always calms me, though it makes my wallet tremble in slight fear. As usual the temptation was too great and I ended up leaving the aisle with none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir Hard Choices. I used the very flimsy excuses of ‘ooh I am going to Washington in a few weeks, it is like research’ and ‘she was brilliant on Woman’s Hour’. I know, I know I am weak – for having to buy a book not for listening to Woman’s Hour it is wonderful listening.

Hilary Clinton

Anyway, I digress. After I had bought it I was explaining to The Beard that I had bought it because it would give me a really unusual, yet direct, insight into the state of the world at the moment and its conflicts, plus American politics and give me some insight into someone who will, hopefully, become the next President of America. He responded with ‘you don’t need to justify buying a famous person’s memoir to me…’

And I think in some way he was right, I was really over justifying it because reading autobiographies and memoirs is one of those things that gets judged really harshly. If I am being 100% honest sometimes with certain autobiographies I have read them and yet not blogged about them or even popped them on my GoodReads book lists for fear of the judgement. I am not talking Jennifer Saunders or Dawn French, I think I have featured both of those. I am talking more along the lines of Stephanie Beacham or Kathleen Turner. No, even I wouldn’t read one of Cheryl Cole (or whatever she is calling herself now) or Jordan’s autobiographies. Ooh, see I did it myself then judging those autobiographies.

Yet some memoirs, like Barack Obama who has sold millions of copies of his, can be really insightful into the world. Then again I read Rupert Everett’s for all the gossip, the second one is written brilliantly though. Oh and I have read all the Spice Girls ones so far, I am still waiting for two of them and because of being part of the Spice generation I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from getting them for the nostalgia and the truth behind fall outs and all the rest of it. I am getting thrills at the thought. I also have Anjelica Huston’s first memoir ready and waiting on the TBR shelves and will now read it and write about it unashamedly, I love Jelly HuHu so.

So why do we judge autobiographies and memoirs so much, especially as we all love authors memoirs don’t we? (Come on we all do, I bet you have looked in horror as someone is reading some memoir supposedly written by the latest favourite pop star, reality TV star, DJ or comedian haven’t you?) Which ones have you read, be it secretly or not? Who do you wish would do a tell all memoir? Name an author and a celebrity or two I dare you!

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Funny Books Mean Funny Women?

Someone said to me the other day ‘you could do with a bit of a laugh at the moment, couldn’t you?’ and indeed they were quite right. When things are a bit bumpy or up in the air we need a laugh to simply make everything better. That said, and a small aside, I am not one of life’s great laughers. If something is funny you might get a smile but it has to be really funny in order for me to laugh out loud and then, invariably, I simply cannot stop. So this thought of me having a laugh, whilst not aimed at my reading life at all, I thought I would apply to some of the books I want to read over the next few weeks… Funny ones.

The thing is I don’t actually own that many ‘funny’ books, what was even more surprising after I had routed all through my TBR was that I had hardly any ‘funny’ books and if I did, apart from one novel by Russell Kane (which I must read at some point), they are all books by women. I have chosen a selection…

  • Is It Me? – Miranda Hart (yes this is a celebrity book, which I have an odd relationship with but she is very funny and indeed this book made me laugh uncontrollably and very loudly within four pages when I tried it a minute ago, I now want to rush back to it)
  • Moranthology – Caitlin Moran (who I think almost everyone finds fairly funny)
  • The Complete Novels – Nancy Mitford (I have three of these to read but two of them have made me cry with laughter more than once)
  • Oh Dear Silvia – Dawn French (who doesn’t love Dawn French, and I did like her last book)
  • The Tent, The Bucket and Me – Emma Kennedy (who I knew was funny but found hilarious in the UK’s recent Celebrity Masterchef and started to adore and discovered has written funny books about her childhood holidays)

When I said a selection of funny books actually those are, apart from aforementioned Russell, all the funny authors I could find. I have Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’ (which I am sure was also a book for men, though I want to read after) and almost all the other books by Nancy Mitford that you could think of. So really that is my collection. I should have some Sharpe and some Wodehouse but I cannot find them (which means they may both randomly yet coincidentally have been in the box of books I lost in the move, I lose one every move – most odd and unfortunate) but I would have included them, though I am not sure how funny they might be as I have read neither.

That is the big thing with humour though isn’t it, it is so subjective. I was told by many, many people that E.F Benson would make me laugh till I cried and while I liked his observational wit I didn’t think ‘Queen Lucia’ was the funniest book on earth, I enjoyed it immensely though for other reasons. Yet still I have not quite worked out why its women I find funnier (and this goes with live comedy too) than men?

The only thing I can think of, and I don’t think it’s a sexuality thing, is that I don’t like that macho humour of mother in law jokes, all the ‘ist’ (sex, race, etc) jokes and patting oneself on the back for being so funny that men tend to do more. If a man is funny in my eyes he tends to camp it up, again like very much hetrosexualists Russell Kane and David Walliams. That said I don’t find any women who are twee funny either. I am even confusing myself now so shall we move on…

What books are your favourite funnies, be they memoirs or fiction? When was the last time you cried with laughter (or just laughed very, very hard) reading a book?

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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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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Dawn French – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 18

To chime with today’s post on ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ by Dawn French I thought I would offer two of you lovely lot a copy of the novel which will make for some lovely reading after the festive season (I am not sure this will get to you pre-Xmas) and remind you why those you love in your family also drive you utterly bonkers but why families are marvellous things.

All you need to do is pop a comment in today’s post here telling me what celebrities turned authors have actually written some good books, or which your favourite family based drama’s have been and why. You have until 11am GMT December 22nd. Good luck.

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Finding Books Funny…

Nothing quite beats sitting down with a book loving friend in the flesh over a pot of tea/glass of wine or two does it? It is also great for catching up over what you have both been reading and passing on great reads. It also sometimes throws up heated debate, say about Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’, and some lively discussion which fires your brain about all things bookish. This is exactly what happened when I spent several hours with my lovely friend Emma yesterday and the first of two things we talked about which made me internally note ‘that would make a good blog post’ was funny novels. I have always struggled with comic novels and yet would like to read some as I do like a laugh. Yet we were both really pushed to think of that many novels that have made us laugh out loud.

I do pointedly say novels because I have noticed as Christmas draws near it’s that time of year when all the comedians decide it is really time to share their life story and generally, in my humble opinion, they are rubbish. The only good comedian memoirs I can think of are Alan Carr’s ‘Look Who It Is’ and Dawn French’s ‘Dear Fatty’, the latter was funny but also very moving.  

Dawn French was actually one of the first names I thought of, and her novel ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’, when I was thinking of contemporary writers who might be very funny, but I wouldn’t know as I haven’t read it (I should here apologise to my mother who bought me this last Christmas) as yet. I then thought about Stephen Fry and pondered if maybe his novels would be funny? Not memoirs, the fictional novels. Julie Walter’s novel didn’t sound like it was going to be funny, was it? Has anyone read them? Emma was struggling too, she mentioned Jon Niven and we both discussed Sue Townsend (though we also said Adrian Mole etc were funnier when we were younger) but then we were a little lost.

Even with classic funny novels I struggled, I could only think of three. Emma said Charles Dickens, and then told me to ‘get out this house’ when I shamefully admitted I have yet to read him. Dickens… funny… really? Anyway the first I thought of was ‘The Loved One’ by Evelyn Waugh and the second and third were ‘The Pursuit of Love’ and ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ both by Nancy Mitford. I have heard Stella Gibbons is very funny, ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ has been on my TBR for years, I really must get round to it… I must.

  

The thing is though that humour is subjective isn’t it. I like my humour dark in the main, hence the Waugh novel which is set in a funeral home and cemetery is right up my street, and also that dry observational wit which can leave me in stitches as Mitford does. I don’t like slapstick and I am not that fussed by pastiche. It is tricky isn’t it and yet quite unlike Zoe Williams who believes in a time of worry/crisis we should read nonfiction (you can hear me and Gavin discuss this article on the latest episode of The Readers); I think I might quite like the odd hilarious read instead.

So I thought I would throw this out to all of you and see if you could help. Have any novels by comedians been as funny as you hoped? Which books have made you laugh out loud be they modern or classic and why? Recommendations are highly welcomed.

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A New Book for a New Year

My family were really taking the mickey out of me over New Years because naturally we were talking about what we had been reading (well when me, my mother, Granny Savidge Reads and The Girl Who Read Too Much get together the conversation will of course descend into all things books) and I said that I was between books because I like to start the new reading year with a nice new read, though of course I have to be picky about what it is. They all looked at me like I had gone mad!

Maybe I am the only person in the world (unlikely) who does this? I just really like the idea that when one year ends that’s my reading palette closed, have a quick breather and then let the new year can bring in lots of new and exciting reads. It’s a habit that I have had for the last five years I think. Is it just me?  I will of course report back on my decision!

Speaking of new books that might delight me in 2011, which is of course now this year which I am also struggling to get my head round, I thought I would share some books I got for Christmas. I am thrilled to add more are coming because of the pesky snow and postal problems, so will report on those when it arrives. I did mainly get vouchers for new flat stuff though, but over to the more exciting things… new books!!

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach (from The BookBoy)
  • Witch Week – Diana Wynne Jones (from Nick of A Pile of Leaves)
  • 84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff (from Mr Paul Magrs)
  • The Best of Books and Company edited by Susan Hill (from Mum)
  • A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French (from Mum)
  • Chocolate Wars – Deborah Cadbury (from Mum)

And to think more are arriving in due course. I am not sure if any of these will make it as my first read of the year, I think that might take a full day of mulling over what is in Mount TBR before I can decide, but these titles are all lovely and one could just do the job. I am beginning to think that whatever read I go for first will shape my reading year ahead and therefore it has to be REALLY good, is that too much pressure for any book?

So what books did you all get for Xmas? Any other lovely things, I seemed to get lots of vouchers for things to live in new flats which is very kind of people. Do any of you start the new year with a new book? I will be discussing New Years Reading Resolutions with you tomorrow, any suggestions, I am struggling for 2011!!

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Would Love To Read…

I thought I would introduce a new little feature on Savidge Reads which is along the lines of ‘Would Like To Meet’ only a bit of a bookish version. I have said I want to get to some older books in my new guidelines for the blog, however no matter how many books we have… we always want more. Or is that just me? These aren’t books I am unsure about, like my ‘Do I Want To Read’ series these are books I would be devouring the moment I got to them. So I thought I would let my friends (hint), family (hint, hint) and all of you know of some titles that have appeared on my bookish radar every now and again which have not popped through the Savidge Reads letter box and which if I wasn’t on a self imposed book buying ban I would be running off to the shops to get my mitts on.

Interestingly I thought that my first ‘Would Like To Read’ would be filled with fiction as it’s what I assume I read the most yet its non fiction that has been grabbing my attention in the main over the last few weeks. The first of which is the highly timely, with Halloween just around the corner, is ‘The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time’ by Peter Ackroyd which sounds like a wonderful collection of true tales of the supernatural as the blurb describes much better than I could;

“The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and some are silent, some smell of old leather, others of fragrant thyme. From medieval times to today, stories have been told and apparitions seen – ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace, spooks who just want to have fun. “The English Ghost” is a treasury of such sightings – which we can believe or not, as we will. The accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the door-slamming, shrieking ghost of Hinton Manor in the 1760s and the moaning child that terrified Wordsworth’s nephew at Cambridge, to the headless bear of Kidderminster, the violent demon of Devon who tried to strangle a man with his cravat and the modern-day hitchhikers on Blue Bell Hill. Comical and scary, like all good ghost stories, these curious incidents also plumb the depths of the English psyche in its yearnings for justice, freedom and love.”

The first of the fiction is actually short stories, again not my normal regular reading material, but the collection ‘The Empty Family’ not only has a wonderful intriguing title its also by Colm Toibin and after reading ‘Brooklyn’ I simply want to get to every single one of his books at some point and its always the ones that you don’t have that you want the most.

“’I imagined lamplight, shadows, soft voices, clothes put away, the low sound of late news on the radio. And I thought as I crossed the bridge at Baggot Street to face the last stretch of my own journey home that no matter what I had done, I had not done that.’ In the captivating stories that make up “The Empty Family”, Colm Toibin delineates with a tender and unique sensibility lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals, often willingly, cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence each of Tobin’s stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.”

Could  my second non fiction title today ‘Chocolate Wars’ by Deborah Cadbury be this years most perfect Christmas read (its only just over two months away)? I think it could! I heard about this on a podcast last week and it was all I could do not to run out and buy it and break my ban. Fortunately it’s not out yet so I simply can’t. It will be as tempting as a box of Cadbury’s when it is out in the shops.  

The delicious true story of the world’s most famous chocolate firms by award-winning writer and a descendant of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Deborah Cadbury In ‘Chocolate Wars’ bestselling historian and award-winning documentary maker Deborah Cadbury takes a journey into her own family history to uncover the rivalries that have driven 250 years of chocolate empire-building. In the early nineteenth century Richard Tapper Cadbury sent his son, John, to London to study a new and exotic commodity: cocoa. Within a generation, John’s sons, Richard and George, had created a chocolate company to rival the great English firms of Fry and Rowntree, and their European competitors Lindt and Nestle. The major English firms were all Quaker family enterprises, and their business aims were infused with religious idealism. In America, Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars proved that they had the appetite for business on a huge scale, and successfully resisted the English companies’ attempts to master the American market. As chocolate companies raced to compete around the globe, Quaker capitalism met a challenge that would eventually defeat it. At the turn of the millennium Cadbury, the sole independent survivor of England’s chocolate dynasties, became the world’s largest confectionary company. But before long it too faced a threat to its very survival, and the chocolate wars culminated in a multi-billion pound showdown pitting independence and Quaker tradition against the cut-throat tactics of a corporate leviathan. Featuring a colourful cast of savvy entrepreneurs, brilliant eccentrics and resourceful visionaries; ‘Chocolate Wars’ is the story of a uniquely alluring product and of the evolution, for better and worse, of modern business.

I adore Dawn French as she really, really makes me laugh and ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ is her debut novel. I have to admit I have high expectations of this for being laugh out loud funny or a piece of bittersweet genius. I am not sure if the fact the family’s dog is called Poo is really funny in a childish way or really not… hmmm, I would like to find out. I enjoyed her autobiography ‘Dear Fatty’ though I know autobiographies and fiction are very different, well with some people they are.

“Everyone hates the perfect family. So you’ll love the Battles. Mo is about to hit the big 50, and some uncomfortable truths are becoming quite apparent: She doesn’t understand either of her teenage kids, which as a child psychologist, is fairly embarrassing. She has become entirely grey. Inside, and out. Her face has surrendered and is frightening children. Dora is about to hit the big 18 . . . and about to hit anyone who annoys her, especially her precocious younger brother Peter who has a chronic Oscar Wilde fixation. Then there’s Dad . . . who’s just, well, dad.”

Finally there was another book which I have forgotten so will have a dig through my memories or maybe note books would be better to find out what it was. I was inspired by a review I read yesterday on lovely Kimbofo’s blog regarding ‘Nothing To Envy; Real Lives in North Korea’ by Barbara Demick which sounds incredible. I am intrigued and mystified by North Korea and this sounds like a really insightful look into the world that we know so little about other than what we are shown, which isn’t often. You can read Kim’s marvellous review on Reading Matters it sounds fantastic and one I would love to read too.

North Korea is Orwell’s 1984 made reality: it is the only country in the world not connected to the internet; Gone with the Wind is a dangerous, banned book; during political rallies, spies study your expression to check your sincerity. After the death of the country’s great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994, famine descended: people stumbled over dead bodies in the street and ate tree bark to survive. Nothing to Envy weaves together the stories of adversity and resilience of six residents of Chongin, North Korea’s third largest city. From extensive interviews and with tenacious investigative work, Barbara Demick has recreated the concerns, culture and lifestyles of North Korean citizens in a gripping narrative, and vividly reconstructed the inner workings of this extraordinary and secretive country.

So those are the books I most fancy, that I don’t own, right now and am eager to get my mitts on. What books have you added onto your ‘wish list’ of late? Any other books you have read of later that I simply must add to mine that I have missed this time round?

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Autobiographies

Yes it’s Thursday again which means that of course it is Booking Through Thursday day, what would I do if Booking Through Thursday didn’t exist? Anyway the question this week was all about celebrity autobiographies. Asking us “do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?”

I had a real phase in around 2000 – 2002 of reading any celebrity memoirs that I could get my hands on from the Spice Girls as they dished the dirt to TV stars in general I definitely had a real interest in all things fame based but that was in my early twenties. Were any of them good or life changing, in honestly no not really and so I stopped buying them. My family however didn’t and until about two Christmases ago I was still receiving at least three or four autobiographies of current celebs from varying family members. I have to admit (and sorry if they are reading) generally I haven’t read any of them and they are collecting dust in a TBR pile under the stairs, its shameful. I think I overdosed on them at the time.

However not long before last Christmas (autobiographies always make me think of Christmas now which is weird) I found I had accumulated four because people who were famous but I actually wanted to read about their pasts and their family history’s rather than any beans they had to spill released books. I admit I have still not read two of them but they are definitely creeping up the TBR pile. The ones I haven’t read yet are ‘Just Me’ by the actress Sheila Hancock (because I haven’t read her first one ‘The Two Of Us’ and things need to be read in order) the other is the comedienne Julie Walters (who I think is wonderful) ‘That’s Another Story’. The ones I did read were Alan Carr’s ‘Look Who It Is’ and possibly my favourite autobiographical read yet ‘Dear Fatty’ by Dawn French which is just superb both funny and sad but most importantly real. Yes the odd celeb she has met pops up but there isn’t any dirt dishing and actually the book stops before she becomes very famous. I honestly loved it.

What autobiographies would I like to read? At the moment I have to say I can’t think of a famous person I would like to read all about. I have, just yesterday, picked up a copy of an autobiography of one of my all time favourite writers but more on that tomorrow, isn’t it weird I was planning to do a blog on something similar in a day, small world. I would actually, thinking about it, really like to read Obama’s book, but that seems a little bit ‘on trend’ and jumping on the bandwagon, but I bet they are incredibly interesting. I guess I will have to keep thinking about that one, it’s a puzzle. What about all of you?

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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