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Oh Dear Silvia

(15 customer reviews)


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  • Dawn French, number one best Selling author ofA Tiny Bit Marvellous and one of Britain’s best loved comic writers, returns with Oh Dear Silvia, a darkly comic pageturner that will have you hanging on her every word.
  • Oh Dear Silvia is the brand new novel from one of Britain’s most loved comic writers and the number one bestselling author of A Tiny Bit Marvellous.
  • Praise for Dawn French:

-‘Extremely funny’ Sunday Times

-‘A fantastic slam-dunk pageturner’ Mail on Sunday

  • Dawn French has been making people laugh for thirty years. On purpose. As a writer, comedian and actor, she has appeared in some of this country’s most long running, cherished and celebrated shows, including French and Saunders, The Comic Strip Presents. . ., Murder Most Horrid, The Vicar of Dibley, Jam and Jerusalem, Lark Rise to Candleford, and more recently, Roger and Val Have Just Got In.
  • Her bestselling memoir,Dear Fatty, was published to critical acclaim in 2008. Her first novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, was also a great success, going straight to No.1.
Reviews (15)

15 reviews for Oh Dear Silvia

  1. The Times

    Beautifully observed. Makes you laugh on every page

  2. Stylist

    Hilarious. Chortle-out-loud turns of phrase, razor-sharp observations

  3. Sunday Times

    Fresh, extremely funny

  4. Daily Mail

    Really enjoyable and highly recommended. Dawn French is a wonderful writer – witty, wise and poignant

  5. Good Housekeeping

    A hilarious and compelling read –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

  6. News Paper
    -This novel about a woman in a coma has promise but misses the mark: SUSAN JEFFREYS

    Why does she do it? Dawn French has pretty much got it all sewn up. The divorce was publicly amicable. Her many careers, including those over-sincere Tesco adverts, bring her a shower of gold. Her love life seems, judging by the dedication in this novel (“For Biggs, My anchor and my true love”), to be hunky-dory – unless Biggs is a dog. And you’d give your bum to live in her house in Cornwall. It’s never enough though, is it? So she has taken up the novel-writing.
    It can be a bit of a fag, hacking away at the prose face all day – working out plots, shifting the characters around, honing the dialogue, layering the sub-plots. So Dawn has come up with a labour-saving device. She has the eponymous Sylvia, in a coma, on a life-support unit. Sylvia is out for the count, for the whole of the novel, and has no interior life.
    She’s a blank screen for the others to project on to. A revolving cast of characters comes in and delivers a series of monologues to her, some in accents: “Mi could see where he bin bawlin’. Lines o’ tears. Valleys dung ‘im cheeks”; “Let me out, you feckin’ bastards! Or I’ll smash this fish tank and the feckin’ fish will die”; “That a lotta money. But the talkin’ gonna maybe fix husband’s head where he sad.” And so on. Few of the characters overlap, so the difficult business of creating dialogue and having characters react to each other is skirted round.
    An unconvincing murder, an equally unconvincing money plot, a lesbian love affair and various family traumas are dealt with briskly, and mainly offstage. There are a number of creaky comic turns, including a male stripper doing his routine by the comatose Sylvia’s bedside and a series of bizarre alternative healing rituals from Sylvia’s older sister. A running gag, about Sylvia’s cleaner selling off Sylvia’s belongings, is flogged to death.
    The frustrating thing is that, with a bit of sweat and tears, this could be a better book. There are fine moments. There’ s a truly lovely account of a wood that Sylvia’s supposedly penniless husband has bought, a thoughtful account of the slow sad death of Syvlia’s parents’ marriage, and the fierce anger of a rejected child. French handles all these well, but so much of the novel seems rushed and slipshod. Why that should be is a bit of a mystery. She doesn’t need the money, so why not take the time to get the details right? Every little, as she so often reminds us on the Tesco adverts, helps.

  7. By Shelleyrae on

    Oh Dear Sylvia is the second novel by Dawn French, her first A Tiny Bit Marvellous, published in 2011, became a bestseller in the UK.

    The novel begins by introducing Ed who is seated by his ex-wife’s hospital bed where Silvia rests, unresponsive and on life support after a severe head injury, with subsequent chapters shifting between the perspectives of Ed, Silvia’s nurse (Winnie), housekeeper (Tia), partner (Cat), sister (Jo) and daughter (Cassandra). As each character spends time with Silvia, reminiscing about their respective relationships with her, they develop a portrait of a complicated woman for the reader. Just as you are sure you know and violently dislike Silvia, one of her visitors makes a stunning revelation that proves the old adage that you can never really know another person.

    I thought the way in which the author structured this novel was very clever. The plot is carefully constructed to reveal critical information with perfect timing, betraying secrets and truths that reflect not only on Silvia but also her visitors.
    The darker, serious elements of the story are tempered by the lighter, often farcical, moments, such as Jo’s attempts at pet therapy and Tia’s prattle about celebrity gossip, yet an undercurrent of grief is always present.

    I have to admit while I found Tia’s muddled, and often accidentally profane, speech hilarious, I found Winnie’s Jamaican patios very difficult to read. British, and American readers, might be more attuned to the accent and therefore more comfortable with the odd rhythm but it’s not familiar to me, so I struggled with her chapters.

    While there are similarities in style between A Tiny Bit Marvellous and Oh Dear Sylvia, notably the multiple perspectives and French’s irreverent style of humour, somewhat disappointingly, there is barely a hint of Dawn’s distinct voice.

    Oh Dear Silvia is a come-tragedy which is hilarious, dark and moving in turn. Though it is not entirely what I expected from Dawn French the novel has its’ own unique charm which should appeal to a broad audience.

  8. FatChickDancing on

    I can see this as a stage play, where the hospital bed of Silvia is faced away from the audience, so that you can see each character from her position, strutting and fretting their hours in the hospital room, and imagine what she might feel as each one reveals all sorts of startling information.

    The opening comments of Silvia’s visitors are somewhat low key, and ex-husband Ed seems downright wimpy and boring. But tension builds with each snippet of soliloquy, as characters reveal more about their relationships with the patient at each visit, and the reader finds answers to earlier puzzling behaviors. It’s quite beautiful to see how these characters grow and blossom, not just because of a possible impending tragedy, but because of consideration of it, and of Silvia.

    The story vehicle is ingenious, as having almost all the action take place within the hospital room allows for full development of multiple character arcs within an economical setting. Small theaters with limited space and budget would love such a production. It’s heartwarming messages of human understanding, adaptability, courage, and justice are themes that theater audiences would rave about. Dawn French authentically captures the intimate moments that connect these people and create a rich story. Brava!

    The intensity of the story builds as it goes along, and just after midway through, I found I couldn’t put it down. The end was not what I expected, which is good in that it’s seldom the case that I’m surprised anymore.

  9. By Joana Goncalves on

    Who would have thought that French Dawn was also a very entertaining writer! It is a very pleasant reading, with a few revelations along the way. Definitely worth the reading.

  10. By Bjerkana on

    This is a very clever concept, to tell someone’s story entirely through other people’s eyes. It develops wonderfully in little pieces which go together like a jigsaw. I loved the different characters and their contributions to the story. Good writing style, enjoyable reading.

  11. Dorothyanne Brown on

    Oh my.
    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.
    So when I picked up “Oh Dear Silvia”, I expected more of the same – something light and humorous, something to make me laugh and forget.
    Instead what I got was the tale of a complex woman, one misunderstood by almost everyone in her life, told through the visitors to her hospital room, where she lies in a coma.
    French masterfully takes us through Sylvia’s life. We change our view of her and the people around her as the book progresses, and by the end, we wish all could have been explained, made right.
    I wished for a little less use of dialect in the nurse looking after Silvia, though I have to admit the housekeepers malapropisms (due to her sons teaching her the wrong words in English) were hilarious. A little dialect goes a long way, and in some parts it’s too heavy for reading pleasure.
    But I forgave all as this story winds to the end. If any of you have been with a seriously ill relative, sat by their bedside, tried to reach them, you will find this book calls to your heart.
    Highly recommended. A thoughtful read and one I wished could have gone on longer. Thank you, Ms. French. If any of you have been with a seriously ill relative, sat by their bedside, tried to reach them, you will find this book calls to your heart.

  12. Heather on

    I received this book for free through the Goodreads Firstreads program.
    I love Dawn French! I think she is such a funny woman!! I was so happy to have won a copy of her fiction book entitled Oh Dear Silvia from Goodreads. However, once I started reading the book, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to enjoy it.
    Silvia is in a coma after falling from a balcony and hitting her head. Throughout her time in hospital, she is visited by family, her best friend, her ex-husband, her nurse, and her cleaner. Each has their own story to tell however odd it may be. Throughout this book, we will find out about who Silvia is.

    The title of this book really works. After reading the book, I would say it definitely fits well with the story.
    The cover of this book is quite bland. The tree on the cover of the book does have significance, but it’s just rather boring. It wouldn’t entice me to pick up this book to see what it’s about. Surely, the cover could’ve been a bit more decorative.
    The setting takes place mostly in suite 5 which is Silvia’s room in hospital. The world building is alright. The memories of each visitor help set the story.
    I found the pacing of Oh Dear Silvia to be extremely and painfully slow. At some points, I found myself skim reading the especially boring parts. I couldn’t wait for this book to be over. There’s not even one bit in this book where the pacing picks up. There’s no real plot in this book, so there’s definitely no plot twists. The pacing definitely lets this book down.
    The dialogue is comedic at times which I found to be a small reprieve from the slowness of this book. Ed’s dialogue really bored me.
    The characters are well-developed which I found to be a relief. Each chapter of the book is told by someone who knows Silvia. The main characters that have their own chapters being Ed, Cat, Jo, Cassie, Winnie, and Tia. Ed is by far the most boring character that could ever be in a book. All he mostly talks about is his boring trees. Whilst I did find him to be a well-developed character, I found him extremely dull and found myself wishing that he’d just stop talking. Winnie and Tia were my favourite characters. Winnie has a big heart, and it really comes across in this book. Tia is from Indonesia so has a hard time pronouncing Silvia’s surname which always made me laugh!! I found Tia and Jo to be the characters that brought the humour, and they delivered! Cat is the high strung character, and Cassie is the angry daughter. Each character has a unique personality. Well done to Dawn French for making each character unique! Through each of the characters’ stories, we learn more and more about Silvia.
    Even with the strong character personalities and comedic timing, this book still fell flat. I felt that this book was missing a plot. Oh Dear Silvia comes across more as a memoir about Silvia then anything else.

  13. Sharon on

    I absolutely loved this book, when it finished I wanted to keep reading. It made me laugh, cry, feel anger and sorrow. I will admit that I have never started reading a book not liking any of the characters very much but, as the book goes on you realise that all the characters that come to visit Silvia in her coma have very important reasons for being there, some are selfish but most are there because they feel a need to set the record straight.

    Dawn French has a knack of drawing you into the story one charater at a time and by the time the book has ended you feel sympathy for most involved. Most would think Silvia to be an uncaring heartless woman but as you read the stories from each visitor you realise she was more caring and loving than any of them could have ever known.

    I would recommend this book as one to put on your “to read list” especially those that like books written in a diary format as each chapter is the name of the person visiting Silvia.

  14. Katy on

    Thanks, Goodreads, for the book – won it in the giveaway.

    I had mixed views about the book initially. I got on with it much better than I normally would a book where I don’t really identify with, or like, the characters appearing early on, but a lot of them were very cariacatured (Tia especially), which grated for a while. After about a third of the way through, though, I was hooked. The writing grew increasingly powerful as the story developed, and the ending was much more moving, and much darker, than I had anticipated.

  15. Stephanie on

    Dawn French is a person that almost everyone knows and a person who a lot of people love, simply for her ability to make you laugh. I’ve not read anything that has been written by her before, but I have wanted to. When I read the blurb for Oh Dear Silvia, I immediately picked it up and started reading.

    I love the idea behind this book – The whole book takes place in Coma Suite 5, where Silvia, a friend, lover and mother lies in a coma. The story is told through several people – her ex-husband (Ed), her sister (Jo), her daughter (Cassie), her ‘lover’ (Cat), her housekeeper (Tia) and her nurse (Winnie). There isn’t really a progressive plot as such, but this is more of a collection of memories, wishes and thoughts have about Silvia and how she has changed each narrator’s life. I find books like this very intriguing, so I was interested in seeing what each person had to say.

    Though there are quite a few narrators, they were all very distinctive and even if it didn’t have their names at the beginning of each chapter, you’d know who they were. I was very impressed with the authenticity of each character, as they were all so very different, though you could still sense that some of the characters were connected (Ed and his daughter). I was also impressed with the depth of each character – the character building through the chats to Silvia in the suite was very well done. We get to see many different sides to the characters as they go through various emotional stages. Interaction between the conscious characters was also fantastic, particularly towards the end. I also enjoyed the use of dialect.

    As expected, there were some hilarious comedy moments from French (I particularly liked the scene with the ‘healing’ animals – I was laughing out loud!), which balanced out the more serious backbone of the story. Though this is written by a comedienne, it does have quite a lot of serious issues brought up which added sincerity and seriousness to the writing, which I appreciated.

    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. At first I was very unsure about the book. There were parts that held my attention and some parts I struggled with. At the beginning, I didn’t enjoy the writing, particularly the way most of the words were underlined for emphasis. I got used to it, then different dialects were brought in which, again, made me unsure. I did find Winnie’s Jamaican dialect to be charming, though I was unsure about Tia. Tia is foreign and her children taught her to use lots of swearing and incorrect words when talking – sure, it was funny at the start, but I found it to be tiresome after a while and didn’t like it. Our most serious character in the book is probably Ed, who I did enjoy reading about, but sometimes, in contrast with the other characters, felt a little dull.

    Overall, I was impressed with Oh Dear Silvia, and though I was unsure of it at first, I was glad that I stayed with it as it improved from the midpoint onwards. I think that this book will appeal to a lot of readers, and I would certainly be willing to read more fictional novels by Dawn French.

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