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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 25 October 2012
This second novel by Dawn French is easy to read but in the early parts difficult to interweave the various contributions of the narrators into a cohesive piece of work. Persevere, it is worth it. Silvia Shute has fallen three floors from a balcony. She is in intensive care in a coma on life-support including mechanical ventilation. She is the younger sister of the eccentric Jo. They lost their mother at a young age and their army-trained father went off the rails. Sylvia divorced dependable Ed after showing little love for him or their two children, Jamie and Cassie who after leaving home had no love or respect for their mother.

This background is the canvas on which the author paints the past and mysteries of Silvia through a series of monologues delivered by family and friends. She is inert and unresponsive 'like a marble sarcophagus'. The content of the monologues alternate between love and hatred, sibling rivalry and jealousy with Ed in particular, 'dead inside'. The prose jumps from straight dialogue to charming descriptions particularly of the woods where Silvia and Ed spent much of their courtship. The dismal outlook and depressing medical predicament of this tragedy are broken by episodes of humour. The Indonesian Tia (Silvia's cleaner) spends her moments relating the contents of current gossip magazines in an amusing format. Jo refuses to give up hope and reality of waking her 'frozen sister' with a series of bizarre, funny and hilarious attempts to stimulate some response.

The novel is held together by Silvia's Jamaican nurse, Winnie. She treats Silvia with the repect she gives all her patients and is the only one with no axe to grind, no anger, hate or questions but only wishes good things for Silvia. She is a totally professional caring person.

There are some subplots, some improbable and others rather repetitive. The circumstances surrounding the ill-tempered, violent, possessive Irish Cat (a GP),are an important part of the novel, yet do have some improbable features. The descriptions of her native Connemara are attractively portrayed.

I enjoyed the book. I felt although the narrators were speaking individually, they were able, at last, to express their true emotions withought the worries of feedback. Almost a stage-play situation. Dawn French then pulls it all together with the unexpected and surprising revelations, explaining the secrets of the protagonists' lives. Well-worth reading and well-written.
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on 18 October 2014
Oh dear! I have admired and respected Dawn for many years and before purchasing the book I read some of the reader reviews of Oh Dear Sylvia, I thought that those giving 1 star just didn't "get" the plotline.
However having struggled through the first 10 chapters I do get the plot, indeed it is obvious from chapter 2, but I cannot for the life of me find anything even faintly humerous about all the visitors at the bedside of someone in a coma. I can't even believe the professional critics were laughing "on every page". I found I was dozing off after about 3 pages and I am someone who was so engrossed in a book I could not put it down and read it right through the night.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dawn French has a great concept. Silvia lies in hospital in a coma. Her family and 'friends' come to visit her and, whilst sitting with her, recall old memories and reveal their inner secrets. Their lives have all been influenced by Silvia in one way or another and we learn more and more about their pasts as the visit count increases.

The problem is that the story and the way it's told just isn't very good. The story is neither funny, dramatic, romantic or poignant. It sometimes tries to be all at once and normally fails. It's characters are dull - as Silvia thought of some of them herself when she was alive and well - or just downright annoying. The characterisation and accent of Winnie, Silvia's caring nurse, teeters from stereotypical to a wee bit racist. The story development is slow, some of the hospital visits are the same or similar to those which preceded them. That may be representative of real life but an exciting book it does not make.

It was a real struggle to get through. Only in the final few chapters did the book pick up a bit and become a tiny bit compelling. Then it was over. The resolution was minimal, the final reaction 'meh'. Rest in peace.
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on 7 December 2014
Really really tried to get into this book, had assumed there might be some comedy at some point given the author's background but sadly not. It also lacked any real interesting plot to try and keep my interest. I did eventually finish the book but that was purely down to my determination to just find out how it ended and that tunred out to be an overly emotional let down.

I can't think of any one i know who might like this book.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I came to this novel with mixed feelings, as novels by celebrities are so often disappointing. But I had heard good things of this one, so I thought I would give it a try.

And I'm so glad I did, for Dawn French writes beautifully. This is the story of the eponymous Silvia, who is lying in hospital in a coma after a fall from a balcony. Into her hospital room comes a series of visitors, and as they visit they reflect on Silvia, their separate relationship with her, and their own stories. Much of this is done in the form of speaking aloud to the apparently lifelss Silvia, and all to the background of the regular hiss of her ventilator. Among the visitors is her ex-husband, Ed, her mad sister Jo (who is determined to rouse Silvia by whatever means she can; supernatural if need be), her cleaner Tia, her estranged daughter Jess, her best friend Cat, and the lovely West Indian nurse Winnie (my favourite character). As they talk we build up a picture of Silvia and her life, the affect she has had on others, and the dark secret that comes to light in the course of the book. The characters are drawn with great warmth (this is one of the book's greatest strengths), and it would be hard not to sympathise with any of them.

My only slight problems would be the fact that two of the characters - Tia and Winnie - speak with strong accents, and this can be distracting. Winnie's West Indian is beautifully done, but the addition of Tia's broken English was, I felt, going a step too far. Parts of the novel, too, are a little over-long (especially the lengthy letter from her soldier son in Afghanistan). But these are small niggles.

This novel has come out at just the right time, and will I'm sure make a lovely Christmas present for anyone wanting a light, funny, entertaining read. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
By giving this book only 2 stars I am not trying to imply it is a bad book but it was not to my taste. Maybe it is my fault for buying a book that is outside of my normal genre but I wanted to try it as it was by Dawn French who I do like a lot on the telly.

I only got up to page 60 odd before giving up but later thought it would be fairer to the author to give it another go. I got to page 100ish before giving up again and passing the book to my missus.

Basically this is a book that revolves around the thoughts and feelings of the friends and family of Sylvia. Unfortunately Sylvia is in a coma and cannot answer back and these thoughts and feelings are expressed at visiting times at the hospital. I just thought that the mundane thoughts of Sylvia's visitors was quite boring and I had no desire to carry on.

I am sure that when the missus reads it she will have much better views than mine.

One thing I did not like was the authors habit of underling words quite frequently. I thought that this indicated that Ms French has not got the confidence in her readers to understand the book.
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on 18 November 2012
chosen after tv promotions by Dawn left me more than interested,I knew what the overriding scenario would be and ejoyed the fresh style of introducing the characters. Silvia was just incidental and I enjoyed the speed that the characters revealed themselves in such a unique setting. I did wonder how a whole book could continue thus.
As the days past by ......my opinion of Silvia changed from one of total dislike to a frustrated feeling of empathy towards her. The frustration arose because the reader was slowly learning the whole truth but it would be impossible for the characters in the book to learn it.
It demonstrated the cliche "blood is thicker than water".
in the end the reader was left in no doubt that Cat would surely be receiving her "due justice" but I totally became aware of the perfectly assigned book title.

A beautiful read and I shall await patiently Dawn French's second novel. She has a unique style and insight.
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on 8 November 2012
I've just joined a book club and this was the first book chosen for us all to read, and I'll be honest and say that it wouldn't have been one I would have chosen to read otherwise. I've not read anything by Dawn French before but I admire her as a comedian/actress. The problem I found was that Dawn writes the way she speaks and so when I was reading the book all I could hear was her voice, doing all the different accents. The premise of the book is very interesting and explores the notion of how we are all different things to different people, but I just found the characters to be flimsy, one dimensional and unbelievable. Some parts of the story are touching and poignant but in other chapters it dissolves into farce and I found the humour rather infantile. Like someone said in another of the reviews, the story would make a great play rather than a book.
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on 4 July 2013
Concept was good and I did read it to end but I was left feeling cheated. Winnie`s dialect was difficult to follow so had to skip some of this. In fact I skipped quite a bit of the nonsense bits throughout the story but kept going as I thought the exciting part was to come. Alas, it never did and the end was so disappointing and abrupt. I think I should stick with seeing Dawn on the telly. I cannot recommend this book.
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on 9 July 2013
I cannot understand how anyone can find a comic element in this. I am a great admirer of Dawn French, but this is not her finest hour. The underlining of words in the text just irritated me, and was not at all necessary. The character of Winnie was offensive in its stereotyping, not to mention hard to understand. The basic concept was quite clever, and the gradual unveiling of the truth was interesting, however although we discover that Silvia probably had good motives for the way she behaved, by that time I really did not care.
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