Monday 14 October 2013

Review: Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French

A matchless lover? A supreme egotist? A selfless martyr? A bad mother? A cherished sister? A selfish wife?

All of these. For this is Silvia Shute who has always done exactly what she wants. Until now, when her life suddenly, shockingly stops.

Her past holds a dark and terrible secret, and now that she is unconscious in a hospital bed, her constant stream of visitors are set to uncover the mystery of her broken life. And she must lie there, victim of the beloveds, the borings, the babblings and the plain bonkers.

Like it or not, the truth is about to pay Silvia a visit. Again, and again and again...

Review: I loved the concept for this book and it had been sitting on my wish list for a long time. I finally downloaded this book on audiobook and the greatest aspect of that was that it was narrated by Dawn French as well as some other wonderful and familiar voices. The fact that this book was basically dramatised, with Dawn French providing the narration and the voice of Siliva and with other names such as James Fleet and Pauline McLynn providing the voices for Siliva's best friend, husband, daughter and other visitors who enter Coma Suite 5 really added to my enjoyment of it and made me happy that I decided to go down the audiobook route for this particular title! 

The structure of this story was just wonderful. Over the days that Silvia lies in a coma, her visitors come and go. Her friends and family, and the nurse who is looking after her. Each time they visit, we learn a little bit more about Silvia and also about how she came to be in Coma Suite 5. This meant that through each chapter, we change our opinion of Silvia, of who she was, and the kind of person she led her life as. We also get to know a lot about the other characters and as our opinion of each of them changes, the real reason behind Silvia's 'accident' becomes clearer and clearer.

The story has a real mystery behind it, and this isn't something I usually like, but the mystery here was mixed in with some real life drama and some incredibly funny bits, I found myself really enjoying it. There is a seriously funny scene where Silvia's sister brings a hamster, a dog and a stick insect into her hospital room, as you can imagine, much drama ensues and I nearly had to pull the car over I was laughing so much! 

Unfortunately, parts if the story were slightly spoilt by a bit of over description. During some scenes I felt a little as if Dawn French had swallowed a thesaurus and words were being used my characters that definitely wouldn't use those kinds of  words. As well as this, scenes were sometimes peppered with descriptions of trees, or fields, or settings which weren't really necessary to the storyline. This is the kind of thing I might pick up on when marking my pupils' writing and so I'm surprised that descriptions which definitely didn't fit with the characters, made it as far as the book. 

Overall I definitely enjoyed this book, however, I laughed, I cried, I felt compelled to keep listening until the wee hours to find out just what happened to Silvia, it was an excellent concept for a story, a good collection of characters and a really simple, clever setting. If you get chance to read this you definitely should, maybe just skim the overly long descriptions of different types of tree! The audiobook had the added bonus of the different voices, so that's a definitely worth a listen too! 

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