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OH DEAR SILVIA by Dawn French


by Dawn French

Pub Date: May 28th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-227181-5
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Will Silvia, who’s in a coma in the hospital, ever speak again? If not, then her visitors, friends and family will help piece together her story, while also revealing their own.

Popular British television comedian French, who has already published two best-sellers in the U.K., makes her American debut with a downbeat story of family fracture narrated from multiple perspectives, using voices sometimes profane, sometimes strongly colored by dialect for comic effect, although the result is more clumsy than funny. If there’s a plot, it’s the mystery of why Silvia Shute became a different woman five years ago, suddenly divorcing her husband and estranging herself from her two children. The explanation emerges through the drip-drip repetitive pattern of chapters devoted to the individual visitors to her bedside after her mysterious three-story fall, each of these characters heavily delineated on each visit. Wacky sister Jo tries many offbeat remedies to wake Silvia up, even bringing a male stripper to the hospital bedside. Friend Cat and Indonesian housekeeper Tia reveal agendas, while busy Nurse Winnie tells her own tale while tending to Sylvia’s physical needs. It’s a labored form, and the conclusion is thin.

French has a big, buoyant TV personality; how different from this dull, incomplete little story.