Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Tiny Bit Marvellous, Dawn French

Posted by lea at 3:35 PM
I have to admit I'm a BBC-nerd. I love those old-timey English shows like Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By and The Vicar of Dibley. Would you like a spot of tea? Oh yes please!

So when this novel by the Vicar herself, Dawn French, appeared on my horizon, I grasped and read it eagerly. Like the title, the book itself is a tiny bit marvellous.

The novel is about a fairly typical, middle-class, suburban British family. Chapter by chapter, the perspective changes across the members of the family. The main voice is child psychologist mum Mo, who is pre-menopausal and about to turn 50. She's an intelligent, insightful woman... except when it comes to her kids.

First there's Dippy Dora, a teen who embodies the worst of all the insecure yet supremely narcissistic and rude Brit teens you see on X-Factor cringe moments, and eccentric, Oscar Wilde-channeling gay son Peter (but call him Oscar). Their father, referred to as Husband, is somewhere in the background.

It's written in first person, diary-like monologues, which allow us to get to know each character more intimately than they know each other (and sometimes themselves). French takes a little too long to let us get used to them before anything of significance in the storyline actually happens. About half the book, in fact.

But it does pick up pace as each character makes mistakes (Oscar's is the funniest, Dora's rather sad and Mo's... well, slightly predictable) and learns and grows. Like normal families, there's a lot of bickering, and like TV families, there's a nice tidy end that brings them all together.

The writing is good. Mo has several French-esque moments when she goes off at something with funny observational humour, and Oscar's over-the-top dandyism is very amusing, but Dora's angsty entries can get, like, really tired like really fast. I hope that was intentional (do British teenagers still really talk like that?). French also manages to make this motley crew of characters very endearing despite - or rather because of - their many flaws.

I enjoyed reading A Tiny Bit Marvellous. I doubt it'll win any prizes, but it's a nice family drama-type book with wisdom and humour.

PS - thanks to the Ongs for gifting me with this book!

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