[Reviewed by Mrs O']
I wanted to really like this book by Dawn French, as I like her as a comedian very much, but I'm afraid this book leaves a lot to be desired - sorry Dawn! The book is about the Battle family who unsurprisingly live up to their title. The characters are all loudly drawn caricatures and leave no room for imagination by the reader. There is a foul-mouthed sulky angry teenage daughter (Dora), an intelligent eccentric gay son (Peter/Oscar) and Mum (Mo), a child-psychologist who obviously has problems with her own children but can solve other parents' children's issues and has a mid-life crisis to boot. So the stage is set in a predictable way that sadly plays out until the end. The book itself I found to be a bit schizophrenic, not knowing who it was really supposed to appeal to. In my opinion it tries a bit too hard to be 'hip' by its use of shocking language from the outset, which did nothing but annoy me right from the very beginning. Additionally the use of modern day teenage 'isms' pitched it at a younger audience, who I feel were probably not the majority audience for a book by Dawn French. Sadly, this book is a 'miss' from me and I suggest you don't read it on the train if you're concerned about people reading over your shoulder, as the level of swearing and foul-mouthed ranting on the pages could cause early morning commuters to have a funny turn!
on 22 October 2010
As a big fan of Dawn French as a comic actress, my expectations for this book were very high. And I have to say that I haven't been disappointed.
Having been written in a diary format, it could have been tricky to portray the personalities of each of the characters in the prose style itself, but Dawn has done this to much success! It was great to be reading each chapter and have each one be very different to the one before. This really helped to break up the book into manageable sections, rather than the story dragging on for ages without much going on.
As for the story itself, I really enjoyed reading about the interactions between the members of this family from the point of view of everyone, including their opinions on the minutiae of everyday life.
Being easy to read made me want to keep going and discover more about each family member as the chapters went by. It was easy to compare myself and people I know, with the Battles! This book has exceeded my expectations. I knew it was going to be an entertaining read right from the first sentence.
I won a copy of this book (through another website) before publication and this review comes from my review on that website.
Admittedly not a book I'd have immediately chosen (reading group choice) however because I like Dawn French as a comedienne I was hoping to at least find it funny if not the most gripping story. From page one and the unrealistic jeuvenile rant that we hear from seventeen year old Dora I began to seriously doubt whether I would be able to read the whole book. By page twenty three I was already looking to see how many pages there were, and by page fifty four I'd decided my life was too short to give up any more time to it. I did feel slightly guilty about this because even if a book is poor, I like to have read it all to be able to give a good argument as to it's failings.
However I can comment on what I did read:
The book has chapters which are written in a diary form by the main characters, however the characters just didn't seem realistic. The daughter (Dora) was 17 but in my opinion acted like 12/13 year old, and a very spoiled one at that with her constant tirades of swearing about her mother. The mum (Jo) I couldn't relate to at all, with her hang ups about being 50 and general moaniness about everything. If anything it just made me wonder who actually reads and enjoys this kind of book.
Sorry Dawn but this can only be a hit if the reader's aim at the waste paper bin is accurate.
on 29 August 2011
In common with lots of reviewers, I wanted to like this book but, with its dreary plot (which I'm sure I've read elsewhere) its use of never ending foul language (itself an indication of a lazy writer) and its weak storyline, I though it was dreadful.
As another reviewer has stated, this appears to be a cash in on so called "celebrity status" and is all the poorer for it! When I think of all the talented writers there are in this country, slaving away over their novels or short stories and who will never get published, my blood boils when this tripe gets publicity.
That's several hours of my life I'll never get back!
on 18 August 2011
Soooo boring. Am thinking of givng up at 80%! Characters are lack luster. And what is it with the Mo character! Is French exorcisng her own pseudo psychology ideas and theory, maybe she's just completed a psychology course. it really doesn't stand up to the hype and it doesn't work.
on 11 August 2012
I'm often a bit wary about books by celebrity authors. I always wonder if they got published on the merit of their writing or because of who they are. Of course, Dawn French is a very talented comedian, so you'd expect something amusing, at least. But can she make a story out of it?
In the first few chapters (very short chapters) I was still wondering. The scenario of a desperately dysfunctional family, composed entirely of eccentric characters constantly misunderstanding each other, was certainly amusing and the language colourful. But as I got further into the story, I discovered something deeper. Yes, it was funny, but it was also sometimes touching, sometimes poignant, and even thought provoking.
The character development I thought was excellent. Angry, foul-mouthed, vulnerable and insecure daughter Dora. Son Peter, desperately trying to be Oscar Wilde. Mo, the mother, the Child Psychologist who can't understand her own children. Those are the three who's voices we here - but the other characters come through as well. Dad - the glue that holds them all together. Mo/s Mother, the Grandma who's deep insight is matched by a remarkable ability to bake the right cake for the right person (reminded me of Joanne Harris's 'Chocolat!). (The cake recopies at the end of the book are a nice touch!) Even the minor charachters are well drawn - amusing, but with depth.
For many people, the three person POV or the admittedly awful language might be off putting. But this shouldn't be dismissed as simply 'Light and trite'. Dawn French is trying to do a lot more here, and for me, she succeeds.
on 19 February 2012
Oh my actual God, this is like, so the worst book I have ever read? and the publishers should, like, totally of been done for false advertising for that title? Cos it's like, not a tiny bit marvellous. It's like, total wonk? And stuff?
If reading that paragraph set your teeth on edge then I recommend you steer well clear of Dawn French's debut novel. It's a tepid journey through a series of dull events narrated by one-dimensional characters and finished with a "twist" which is about as subtle as being hit in the face with a sledgehammer.
The book is told in a series of head-hopping diary entries: Boring Mum Mo, irritating teen Dora and superfluous dandy Peter/Oscar. As each chapter is told from a different point of view none of the characters have time to develop, and they start and end the book as shallow stereotypes, lacking any form of complexity or growth.
The banal personalities of the characters are rendered even more dull by their bland stories. No doubt Dawn French thought she was tapping into the "Everyman" factor with her characters: depicting events and scenes to which we can all relate. The result is hackneyed, predictable, boring, and lacking insight. Allow me to illustrate:
Dora is an irritating 17-year-old who speaks and acts like a 13 year old (like, so totally, like wak?). She's finishing her A Levels and she thinks the world hates her. Yawn. She "learns" that people aren't what they seem, and that her family loves her after all. Yawn.
Mo is approaching her 50th birthday and is worried about growing old. She is a child psychologist without a clue about her own children. Yawn. A younger man shows interest in her and she wonders whether or not to go off with him. Yawn. She "learns" that people aren't what they seem, and you have to be happy with what you've got.
Peter/Oscar has the beginnings of being a promising character. He is 16 and is fixated with Oscar Wilde. But the fixation extends only to being gay, and dressing and speaking like a dandy. He doesn't actually seem to have read any of Wilde's works, or to link in to any of Wilde's main themes. He "learns" that people aren't what they seem, and true love can be hiding just under one's nose. His inclusion seemed to function as a lazy attempt to nudge the book towards the genre of "literary fiction." As Dora would say: "Yeah, like totally not. You wonk."
The work is boring: the theme of a dysfunctional family is well-worn and Dawn French offers no fresh insight with her obvious characters, limp themes and cliched prose.
I have often ventured the opinion that Dawn French is one of the least funny people to have appeared on television in the last twenty years, and this novel did nothing to raise my opinion of her. The humour in the book falls flat, relying as it does on stereotypes and "comic" speech patterns which just end up being irritating.
If you don't believe me, I will furnish you with one further example. This is how subtle, complex and highbrow the humour in the book gets: The dog is called Poo.
If this book had been written by anyone other than a "celebrity" it would never have seen the light of day. Amazon and Goodreads allow you to give 1* as the lowest possible rating, but I feel this would be too generous as there is nothing about the novel that makes it worth that star
This is the story of the Battle family: mother Mo, daughter Dora and son Peter, along with dad and the dog named Poo. It's a pretty dysfunctional family really, with some problems and strange behaviours.
The story is told in fairly short chapters, from the point of view of each of the three main characters, and I thought this was a good device to put across each set of feelings, particularly towards the other characters.
I have to say that when I was reading Mo's segments I just kept hearing Dawn French's voice, even though the character is not really anything like Dawn French. And frankly, Dora is a quite hideous character, and if she was my daughter I would be tempted to disown her. The way she speaks to and about Mo is quite shocking really. I know she's a teenager but even so. Peter was my favourite character. He's otherwise known as Oscar in the book, as he has a real affinity with Oscar Wilde. His sections were amusing and he was a great, quirky character.
I got a bit annoyed with the swearing in the book. Not the level of it, but the words used, as I don't know a single person who uses the majority of the made-up swear words in this book, and again this is where I was hearing Dawn French's particular style.
All in all, I would say this is a reasonable read, and I did enjoy it, but I think the author got away with some poor writing because of who she is. I would still recommend it as a nice, uncomplicated read though.
I'll admit, I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as I'd hoped. Yes, Dora's voice was very teenagerish, and Oscar was quite brilliant, but I couldn't stand Mo. I found her selfish and utterly unsympathetic, not to mention very like Dora, who I found boring after the first few chapters. There are aspects of realism in them both, but I still found them largely unlikeable. And ungrateful. Husband/Dad is clearly a treasure - I'm glad his children knew this.
With no surprises in the plot for me, it was nice to see a shift in Mo's attitude towards the end. It would have been nice if it had been caused by her realising what she actually had, but nobody's perfect.
Except maybe Oscar. And his smoking jacket.
Dragging in the middle, with some characters that were better than others, there is a nice emotional pay-out at the end, but on the whole I was disappointed. If I can't like the main characters, I can't like a story, no matter how realistic they are.
on 29 December 2010
I have always admired Dawn French as a comedy actress and collaborative writer. But it seems this experience does not automatically make an accomplished authoress. Note: I have not read any other reviews before writing my own opinion.
I saw Dawn French on The Book Show (Sky Arts 1) when Mariella Frostrup interviewed her with respect this title. Having received the book and tried to read it, I can see how clever Dawn was at putting across her material to a target audience...
Book Show viewers are more likely to appreciate literary fiction - yes? We are not necessarily highbrow academics but we do enjoy whatever we see as a 'good read', often a book whose author is interviewed on this show.
By the time Dawn's interview was over, I was expecting her novel to be a witty Joanna Trollope mixed with the narrative insight of Maeve Binchy and the wisdom of many other contemporary authors who set their themes in the family. The age-old tension of mother-daughter relationships drew me in.
The first page threw me out.
I can read bad vernacular but narrative that is littered with it...NO. Less is more, Dawn.
I can appreciate multi-viewpoint devices but simply writing diary-style from each character's view with very little narrative guidelines...per-lease!
I did not get past Chapter Two before leafing forwards to see if the novel would change direction...but no, Dawn has implemented a writing style that I think (without-any-absolute foundation) indicates her background. Surely, this is a script rather than a well-crafted work of fiction?
It really is not for me and if, when I finally read the other reviews, I am in the minority, I will still publish this review. And still admire Dawn whenever she appears on the TV screen or through my DVD player.