Monday, 21 April 2014

Audio Book Review: "Oh Dear Silvia" by Dawn French

Dawn French is one of my favourite comedians so I was expecting "Oh Dear Silvia" to be a laugh a minute. But it's far more complex than that. Yes, it's funny in parts - particularly when Silvia's sister, Jo, is involved. But it's also sad in parts, uncomfortable in parts, and disturbing in parts.
The premise is an intriguing one. Silvia has fallen off a balcony and is in a coma. As she lies in her hospital room, seemingly totally oblivious to what is happening around her, she receives a series of visitors who talk to her about what is going on in their lives and dissect and comment on their personal relationships with Silvia.
And so the process starts of uncovering layer after layer of difficult truths ... about the visitors and about Sylvia.
The cast

  • Winnie, her nurse, is a warm, funny person. As she lovingly tends to Silvia, she tells her about the goings-on in her gospel church choir.
  • Ed, her ex-husband, talks about his period of extreme despair, and how he found a way to enjoy life again.
  • Cassie, her estranged daughter, is, at first, reluctant to even enter the room, but eventually does so, taking with her, Willow, Cassie's young daughter. Silvia has never seen her grand-daughter and Willow has no idea who this lifeless body is.
  • Jamie, her son, sends her a letter (read out by Cassie) about Afghanistan, where he was on active service, explaining why now he has no feelings for Silvia, but then describing life as a soldier in a war zone.
  • Jo, her elder sister, is a complete fruit-cake. There are obvious rivalries between them, but Jo does try to draw Silvia out of her coma using bizarre and often funny methods.
  • Tia, her cleaner, tells Silvia gossipy news about celebrities from magazines and explains why, because she's not being paid, she is taking possessions from Silvia's house, roughly in value to what she's owed and selling them on ebay.
  • And finally there's the poisonous Cat, her best friend and lover, who becomes more and more creepy each time she visits
I liked the way that not only does Dawn French act as the narrator but different actors played out the narratives of the visitors. So, the wonderful Maggie Steed becomes sister Jo, James Fleet is Ed, ditsy Pauline McLynn is Cat, and so on. This meant that each voice is quite different and adds a variety that perhaps is less so on the written page.
Generally, the production worked, but as the story unfolded, I increasingly wanted Silvia to wake up and respond to the accusations levelled against her. Whether this happens or not is up to you to discover, if you so choose.

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