Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Oh Dear Silvia

Rate this book
Who is in Coma Suite Number 5?

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...

352 pages, Hardcover

First published October 25, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Dawn French

45 books789 followers
Dawn Roma French is a British actress, writer and comedian. In her career spanning three decades, she has been nominated for six BAFTA Awards and also won a Fellowship BAFTA along with her best friend Jennifer Saunders. She is best-known for starring in and writing her comedy sketch show, French and Saunders, alongside her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, and for playing the lead role of Geraldine Granger in the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
998 (13%)
4 stars
2,049 (28%)
3 stars
2,475 (34%)
2 stars
1,209 (16%)
1 star
470 (6%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 940 reviews
Profile Image for Belinda.
467 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2013
I would like to start this review with the disclaimer that I love Dawn French. I think she’s fabulous and very funny and the only time I’ve ever been reprimanded on an airplane was when I was watching The Vicar of Dibley and laughing too loud. (The Coles ads, well…I guess everyone’s got to pay the bills.) I was immensely looking forward to reading this book and certain that many chuckles would ensue.

The thing is, though, they didn’t. The eponymous Silvia is lying in hospital in a coma after having fallen off her balcony, landing three floors below. The story is told from the first person point of view of six characters: nurse Winnie, ex-husband Ed, sister Jo, housekeeper Tia, friend Cat and daughter Cassie. As the story unfolds, we learn that each of these people has a different view of who Silvia Shute is and what she means to them differs vastly. Silvia has made some decisions in her life that her family doesn’t understand and, while she is lying in hospital, they take the occasion to address their grievances with her to her unmoving body.

The first problem I had with the novel is that two of the six main characters have their speech written in dialect – Winnie in a Jamaican lingo - “Right, sidung ‘pon dat chair, sista. Yu better start talking. Gimme some reasons for dis craziness” (p193). No, just no. Tia, the Asian housekeeper, oh so amusingly refers to Silvia as “Mrs Shit”: “Tia has been taught to swear by her two sons who were born and grew up in England, and who amuse themselves by cajoling her into using utterly inappropriate language. She’s not stupid, she knows they are having a laugh at her expense, but she can’t be bothered to deduce exactly why, and frankly, she doesn’t care”. Again, just no. It’s cringeworthy.

The second problem I had with the novel is that it just doesn’t make any sense. I understand that the whole point of the novel with its multiple storytellers is that we understand how multifaceted people are and that different people mean different things to different people, but there is no cohesiveness within the character of Silvia. Even timelines were confused and illogical and changed inexplicably from chapter to chapter.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Ed tells us that Silvia systematically destroyed his self-esteem, which lead to the end of their marriage. Cassie has a four-year-old daughter and was kicked out of the family home one week after telling her mother Silvia that she was pregnant, so the end of the marriage was at least four and a half years ago. But then we find out that the end of the marriage was precipitated because Silvia helped Cat dispose of her dead husband’s body, which happened three years ago, so Cassie can’t have been kicked out over four years ago. Then there’s all this stuff about Cassie living with Ed and Ed’s mum but then halfway through the novel she all of a sudden has a boyfriend Ben who she’s had since he got her pregnant and has been really great and supportive but if that is true then all of the stuff Ed said isn’t. And how can Ed afford to buy a field and plant it with really really boringly described trees but spends four and a half/three/however long sleeping on a couch in his mother’s one-bedroom apartment? It doesn’t make any sense. It would absolutely not have been hard for an editor or a proof-reader to draw up a timeline to ensure basic consistency across the storylines rather than really gaping and unbelievable plot holes.

Also, if a coked-up doctor who you suspect is abusive enough a person that you need to isolate your whole family from her, including your unborn grandchild, turns up at your house high as a kite with a dead husband in her trunk, you call the police. Silvia’s motivation to begin a relationship with Cat and cut herself off from her whole family feels really unrealistic and I didn’t buy it at all. None of the aspects of Silvia gel and, for this novel to be successful, this needed to happen.

Finally, the worst thing for me is the stereotypes. The Asian housekeeper steals from her employer. The professionally successful lesbian is a drug-addicted abusive insane person. The sister is a hippy who wants to burn sage and place crystals everywhere and is totally clueless about normal human social interaction. Dawn French, I’ve watched your work – you’re better than this. Penguin (Australia), whose “Australian” book is peppered with –ize endings, you’re better than this too. All in all, a very disappointing effort from a wonderfully talented woman and a publishing house that should have produced a better book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for D.A. Brown.
Author 1 book10 followers
March 18, 2017
Oh my.
I've read Dawn French's first book, "A Tiny Bit Marvellous", which made me howl out loud throughout and which was seriously funny and a tiny bit shocking.
So when I picked up "Oh Dear Silvia", I expected more of the same - something light and humorous, something to make me laugh and forget.
Instead what I got was the tale of a complex woman, one misunderstood by almost everyone in her life, told through the visitors to her hospital room, where she lies in a coma.
French masterfully takes us through Sylvia's life. We change our view of her and the people around her as the book progresses, and by the end, we wish all could have been explained, made right.
I wished for a little less use of dialect in the nurse looking after Silvia, though I have to admit the housekeepers malapropisms (due to her sons teaching her the wrong words in English) were hilarious. A little dialect goes a long way, and in some parts it's too heavy for reading pleasure.
But I forgave all as this story winds to the end.
Highly recommended. A thoughtful read and one I wished could have gone on longer. Thank you, Ms. French. If any of you have been with a seriously ill relative, sat by their bedside, tried to reach them, you will find this book calls toyour heart.
Profile Image for Heather.
431 reviews254 followers
November 5, 2012
I received this book for free through the Goodreads Firstreads program.

(This review can also be found on my blog The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl).

I love Dawn French! I think she is such a funny woman!! I was so happy to have won a copy of her fiction book entitled Oh Dear Silvia from Goodreads. However, once I started reading the book, it became apparent that I wasn't going to enjoy it.

Silvia is in a coma after falling from a balcony and hitting her head. Throughout her time in hospital, she is visited by family, her best friend, her ex-husband, her nurse, and her cleaner. Each has their own story to tell however odd it may be. Throughout this book, we will find out about who Silvia is.

The title of this book really works. After reading the book, I would say it definitely fits well with the story.

The cover of this book is quite bland. The tree on the cover of the book does have significance, but it's just rather boring. It wouldn't entice me to pick up this book to see what it's about. Surely, the cover could've been a bit more decorative.

The setting takes place mostly in suite 5 which is Silvia's room in hospital. The world building is alright. The memories of each visitor help set the story.

I found the pacing of Oh Dear Silvia to be extremely and painfully slow. At some points, I found myself skim reading the especially boring parts. I couldn't wait for this book to be over. There's not even one bit in this book where the pacing picks up. There's no real plot in this book, so there's definitely no plot twists. The pacing definitely lets this book down.

The dialogue is comedic at times which I found to be a small reprieve from the slowness of this book. Ed's dialogue really bored me.

The characters are well-developed which I found to be a relief. Each chapter of the book is told by someone who knows Silvia. The main characters that have their own chapters being Ed, Cat, Jo, Cassie, Winnie, and Tia. Ed is by far the most boring character that could ever be in a book. All he mostly talks about is his boring trees. Whilst I did find him to be a well-developed character, I found him extremely dull and found myself wishing that he'd just stop talking. Winnie and Tia were my favourite characters. Winnie has a big heart, and it really comes across in this book. Tia is from Indonesia so has a hard time pronouncing Silvia's surname which always made me laugh!! I found Tia and Jo to be the characters that brought the humour, and they delivered! Cat is the high strung character, and Cassie is the angry daughter. Each character has a unique personality. Well done to Dawn French for making each character unique! Through each of the characters' stories, we learn more and more about Silvia.

Even with the strong character personalities and comedic timing, this book still fell flat. I felt that this book was missing a plot. Oh Dear Silvia comes across more as a memoir about Silvia then anything else.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone except those who need help falling asleep. Dawn French is great, but this book just didn't do it for me.
Profile Image for Pink.
537 reviews497 followers
March 25, 2015
Oh Dear indeed. It's sort of like Gone Girl, for OAPs who like Richard and Judy, or Alan Titchmarsh. Badly written, unbelievable plot, intensely irritating and most definitely not a 'hilarious' or 'side splitting, darkly humorous' read as the quotes say on the front of the book. Who even writes these reviews? They must be Dawn French fans and so am I, but her books are bestsellers because of her name, not her writing talent.
Profile Image for Sarah Beth.
881 reviews31 followers
April 2, 2013
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from HarperCollins.

I found this book disappointing and fairly absurd. Silvia Shute has fallen from a balcony and lies in a coma. She is visited by Ed, her ex-husband, Jo, her older sister, Winnie, her West Indian nurse, Tia, her housekeeper, Cat, her lover and "friend," and Cassie, her estranged daughter. All of the visitors, with the exception of her nurse who never knew her and her housekeeper, Silvia seems universally disliked. Her children hate her and haven't seen her in years, her husband is wounded and bitter at the abrupt end to their marriage, and her sister is too loony to really know who her sister was.

From the beginning, I found the whole plot of this book a poor choice to begin with. It's hard to have any action, except in flashbacks, when the whole novel takes place in a hospital room. Additionally, it's hard to believe that each one of these characters would speak aloud and at such length to the comatose Silvia - pouring out their thoughts and dreams in a busy hospital. It's hard to get excited at a book composed of a series of one-way conversations. It also seems like a cop-out that every accusation every leveled at Silvia occurs when she's unconscious and unable to respond. It's ironic that Silvia is the focus of this novel, because as a reader, I never got a sense of who she was or what exactly motivated her actions. And if she was so terrible as they all claim, why make such a big fuss over her?

Additionally, I found many of the characters really stereotypical and melodramatic. The ex-husband who almost kills himself under their favorite tree after Silvia leaves him. The ultra hippie, loopy sister who can't accept that Silvia will not recover. The housekeeper who is stealing from her. There were also a lot of scenes that were ridiculous in their absurdity. For example, when Jo tries animal therapy on Silvia, including a stick bug who "alien-like" clamps onto her face and "does a little clinging-on bouncy dance instead. It is positively showing off, wiggling its gnarly bottom over her nose." It was too silly and childish for me to find much of the humor of this book actually funny.
Profile Image for Alan.
54 reviews5 followers
June 6, 2015
A moving story, though not without it's flaws... "Oh Dear Silvia" improves upon acquaintance. The early chapters can be fairly dull, but the novel gradually picks up speed and I read the second half in one bleary-eyed, sniffly sitting.

I found the blurb misleading. I was expecting something like an in-depth analysis of Sylvia Schute from a variety of angles, but for the most part the novel is far more concerned with everybody else. The fact of the matter is that the lady in the coma has ostracised almost everyone, and all of their lives have well and truly moved on without her. There are seven other protagonists! Silvia just so happens to be the common denominator.

This means that entire chunks of text can seem lacklustre, forced or downright tedious. For every heartfelt or memorable moment, there is another monologue about trees, an oh-my-god-who-cares backstory, and let's not forget the damnable Jamaican lilt which seems to become more pronounced with every passing conversation. That said, the characters are distinctive and you will love and/or hate them each in turn (I liked Cassie the best).

I've always loved Dawn French, but this is the only thing of hers that I've read. I wouldn't rush out for another one, and probably wouldn't recommend it to anybody... It wasn't bad, but it wasn't exceptional either. That said, I am keen to discuss it with my friends and coworkers, who I know were eager to give it a go.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
November 25, 2015
I have a stinking head cold so I’ll keep this brief.

This book is amazingly good. The concept is original, the structure is flawless, the characters are all fully realised, the dialogue is very human and real, the plot twists are genuinely shocking, the funny sections are really funny and the sad bits had me weeping openly in my car on the way to and from work.

Dawn French’s first novel ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ was really good but this second novel is incredible. I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. It gets my highest recommendation.

Thank you to Sunshine Seaspray for recommending this to me.
Profile Image for Megan.
80 reviews11 followers
May 22, 2018
This book had such a great hook, that once I started it, I could not put it down! I know that Dawn French is a great comic and speaker, but I wasn't aware she could write as well! The use of a silent central character was an inspired choice, as all action revolves around her and the choices that have led to this point are revealed piece by piece throughout the novel. Having the climax occur in the middle of the book, that had been slowly revealed up until that point was surprising, as although some of it had been telegraphed earlier, some of the big reveal was obvious but yet it was still shocking. The resolution that then came together over the second half of the book did not drag or feel superfluous and the ending was to be expected. That being said, the ending did satisfy me as that would have been how I would end it as well. A great read.
10 reviews
November 3, 2012
Thanks, Goodreads, for the book - won it in the giveaway.

I had mixed views about the book initially. I got on with it much better than I normally would a book where I don't really identify with, or like, the characters appearing early on, but a lot of them were very cariacatured (Tia especially), which grated for a while. After about a third of the way through, though, I was hooked. The writing grew increasingly powerful as the story developed, and the ending was much more moving, and much darker, than I had anticipated.
Profile Image for Simone Perren.
96 reviews42 followers
November 4, 2016
Before I start critically reviewing this book, I wanted to first express my love for Dawn French. I think she is a fantastic person with a wonderful personality and brilliant comedic timing. I have previously read her autobiography, Dear Fatty as well as her first fictional novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, both of which I loved and gave 5 stars without question. This book was pitched as 'if you liked the previous books, you'll love Oh Dear Silvia'. Unfortunately this wasn't the case for me.
I really wanted to like this book and in fact I had mentioned it enough times that my boyfriend bought this for my 21st birthday (3 years ago, oh my goodness). I really just couldn't get into this book and I had some major issues with it.
This book follows Silvia Shute, who is currently in a coma in hospital after falling three floors from her balcony. Although she doesn't speak throughout the book, it shows six characters who visit her hospital room and have differing relationships with her, each very different from the others. The book is written from six perspectives; ex-husband Ed, sister Jo, nurse Winnie, housekeeper Tia, friend Cat and daughter Cassie. I had no problems with the book being told from so many different points of view, in fact it was more interesting that way, however, each one of the characters seemed to either a) hate Silvia; or b) be completely ambivalent about her so I started to wonder why they were even there. I also had issues with each character individually which I will now get into,

SPOILERS:

Starting with the character of Ed, Silvia's ex-husband, I struggled to understand why he was in her hospital room when according to him, she had completely beaten down his self-esteem to the point where there marriage ended and he no longer wanted to be around her. I couldn't understand the rationale for wanting to be there for somebody who supposedly broke you. Ed doesn't like sister Jo either and that just makes the whole bed-watching a chore and very painful. It also makes no sense that he was forced to sleep on his mother's couch when he owns his own successful wood where he spends most of his days.
Next up is Jo, the hippy, confused sister who thinks that she can magically make Silvia wake up using who-knows-what strange methods of burning sage and lighting candles. In talking to her sister's inert body, Jo shows her misunderstanding of a normal human relationship and although I started to feel a little sorry for her, I also wanted to shake her and tell her to let the nurses/doctors do their job and stop trying to do strange experiments.
The nurse Winnie was probably one of my favourite characters and I really loved that Dawn French supposedly took inspiration from her ex-husband Lenny Henry and his mother. The difficult thing with Winnie was that her perspective was written in heavy Jamaican dialect which made it very slow to read and understand fully. I have heard people say that this depiction of a Jamaican woman was stereotypical but I personally disagree because I liked that you read it through her voice. Winnie was very optimistic and talked to Silvia as if she was awake and chatting back which made me realise how difficult it must be to work as a nurse on such a ward with no interaction.
The housekeeper Tia almost seemed like an irrelevant character only brought in to show cultural diversity and an extra point of view. I did think that Tia was very stereotypical; she is an Asian housekeeper stealing from her employer to make some more money who calls Silvia 'Mrs Shit' and apparently doesn't want to understand why her sons laugh at her when they teach her new words (which are actually expletives). I couldn't fully understand why Tia was there as a character because she had no real emotional connection with her employer and therefore it seemed odd that she would be visiting her in hospital.
Cat was one of the most troubling characters because of her potential role in Silvia's injury. Not only that but IT MAKES NO SENSE. Supposedly the reason why Silvia blocked out her whole family and started ignoring them was because Cat shows up one night, with the body of her ex-husband in her car, high on drugs. Why would she not have called the police and removed the issue there and then, rather than staying with her and excluding her family? There is no logic for that. Cat made me feel uncomfortable from the start as any person abusing their privileged position does, so I didn't buy it and this was a major reason for my low rating of this book.
The last character who I again had a lot of issues with was Cassie, Silvia's daughter. Cassie was living at home when she discovered she was pregnant and then a week after telling her mother, she is evicted from the house. Cassie has a lot of trouble and self-doubt about coming to her mother's hospital bed but when she finally succeeds in getting there, she is very vocal about her issues with her mother. I actually liked Cassie's character and had immediate sympathy for her but my problem with her character was the timeline. It's confusing but the time that she was apparently kicked out didn't match up with her daughter's age or the time when her parents got divorced. It was just confused and I felt like it needed to be more precise.

My final thoughts about this book are that it seemed muddled, confused and there were quite a few issues with all of the main characters. Although I loved Winnie and Cassie as people, I thought other points of view were very stereotypical and unnecessary so that is why I gave this book 2 stars.
Profile Image for Novella Semplici.
368 reviews6 followers
September 22, 2019
"Un vantaggio però c'è, nella solitudine, e cioè che attraverso di lei tutto acquista un fascino particolare. Hai così disperatamente bisogno di vedere un po' di bellezza per mitigare tutto lo schifo che hai attorno, che gli alberi finiscono per essere più verdi, il sole più caldo e il pane più buono di quanto non lo fosse quando pensavi di essere felice, e per niente solo. È come se il mondo m'invitasse a uscire a giocare - e indossa il suo vestito migliore."
(Oppure, come invece dice mio padre: la vita compensa).
Romanzo psicologico con qualche tratto di giallo, preso in bibliocoop. Non è un capolavoro perché molti personaggi sono macchiette. Non ridicoli ma... standard. Tipo la sorella matta, la colf straniera, l'infermiera onesta, l'ex marito distrutto, ecc. Però ha dei buoni spunti (i personaggi ruotano attorno a una donna in coma irreversibile che non può ascoltare o rispondere e questo crea situazioni scenograficamente interessanti, anche se non sempre riescono appieno). Alla fine 3 stelle, forse mezza in più la strappa.
Profile Image for hannah jenks.
46 reviews
January 15, 2023
this book was good but someone needs to check on the reviewer at the London Times who said it quote “Makes you laugh on every page” because it very much does not
Profile Image for Stephanie (Stepping Out Of The Page).
465 reviews222 followers
November 17, 2012
Dawn French is a person that almost everyone knows and a person who a lot of people love, simply for her ability to make you laugh. I've not read anything that has been written by her before, but I have wanted to. When I read the blurb for Oh Dear Silvia, I immediately picked it up and started reading.

I love the idea behind this book - The whole book takes place in Coma Suite 5, where Silvia, a friend, lover and mother lies in a coma. The story is told through several people - her ex-husband (Ed), her sister (Jo), her daughter (Cassie), her 'lover' (Cat), her housekeeper (Tia) and her nurse (Winnie). There isn't really a progressive plot as such, but this is more of a collection of memories, wishes and thoughts have about Silvia and how she has changed each narrator's life. I find books like this very intriguing, so I was interested in seeing what each person had to say.

Though there are quite a few narrators, they were all very distinctive and even if it didn't have their names at the beginning of each chapter, you'd know who they were. I was very impressed with the authenticity of each character, as they were all so very different, though you could still sense that some of the characters were connected (Ed and his daughter). I was also impressed with the depth of each character - the character building through the chats to Silvia in the suite was very well done. We get to see many different sides to the characters as they go through various emotional stages. Interaction between the conscious characters was also fantastic, particularly towards the end. I also enjoyed the use of dialect.

As expected, there were some hilarious comedy moments from French (I particularly liked the scene with the 'healing' animals - I was laughing out loud!), which balanced out the more serious backbone of the story. Though this is written by a comedienne, it does have quite a lot of serious issues brought up which added sincerity and seriousness to the writing, which I appreciated.

To explain my rating of this book, although there was a lot of elements of this book which I enjoyed, it did take me a while to get into it. At first I was very unsure about the book. There were parts that held my attention and some parts I struggled with. At the beginning, I didn't enjoy the writing, particularly the way most of the words were underlined for emphasis. I got used to it, then different dialects were brought in which, again, made me unsure. I did find Winnie's Jamaican dialect to be charming, though I was unsure about Tia. Tia is foreign and her children taught her to use lots of swearing and incorrect words when talking - sure, it was funny at the start, but I found it to be tiresome after a while and didn't like it. Our most serious character in the book is probably Ed, who I did enjoy reading about, but sometimes, in contrast with the other characters, felt a little dull.

Overall, I was impressed with Oh Dear Silvia, and though I was unsure of it at first, I was glad that I stayed with it as it improved from the midpoint onwards. I think that this book will appeal to a lot of readers, and I would certainly be willing to read more fictional novels by Dawn French.
Profile Image for Kelly.
1,300 reviews36 followers
February 17, 2013
I started this book with little expectation regarding the execution but with high hopes. I knew that the novel was supposed to be quite morbid but I imagined that with Dawn French behind the keyboard, there was sure to be level of humour, and in this I suppose I wasn't wrong.
Though there was the underlying sense of morality there was a level of humour through the events that occured within Suite 5. Unfortunately I just felt it was all too forced.

Basically, Silvia Shute is in a coma and her life is revealed through her many visitors. Most of these visitors are absolutely bloody nuts and should be in some kind of institute themselves. The schemes of her sister Jo to wake her up were just unbelievable. I spent the majority thinking, well this isn't funny, she'd never be allowed to light candles in a real hospital because the alarms would go off and she'd be chucked out on her ear by security...

I'm not sure I had any real expectation regarding Silvia as a character but within the first few chapters we found out that she was a bit of a bitch towards her ex-husband and she'd effectively kicked her own children out on the street. Did this develop further in the book? Maybe, but I didn't get that far because by then I didn't care whether she lived or died.

I did stop reading quite early on, so maybe it did improve, but it wasn't my cup of tea!
Profile Image for Ian.
230 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2013
I had high expectations of this as the Sunday Times reviewer said (towards the end of 2012) that it was the best book she had read all year. So I was rather disappointed with what for me was a long read (i.e. I kept putting the book down and forgetting about it).
Each chapter features a visitor to a coma patient and what we have is basically a series of inner monologues connected by third person narrative. There is an awful lot of padding and repetition and little in the way of plot development considering the not inconsiderable size of the book. It did feel to me as if the author was aiming to up her word count by using this device and when she ran out of steam with one character she could always move on to the next one. I think this would make a better play than a novel (I was reminded of Simon Gray’s play “Life Support” which has a similar setting).
Profile Image for Kathryn.
837 reviews
February 18, 2016
This was different to what I was expecting. It was more serious than I expected it to be (given its author). I didn’t like many of the characters apart from Winnie and Cassie (and Willow), but it was interesting to read how their stories interacted as they talked with Silvia - their friend, ex-wife, employer, mother and patient - who was in intensive care in a coma. We saw Silvia through their eyes and she was revealed as more complex than she initially appeared. It was quite and easy read, but also quite easy to put down. The ending was nicely done.
Profile Image for Anne.
40 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2012


Couldn't go past the end of chapter 2. Every other verb is underlined, in an effort to make me appreciate that I could be listening to it, as spoken by the vicar of dibley...I can read, I should be able to put a rhythm and intonation without feeling forced into it.
Not for me
10 reviews
September 15, 2014
On finishing this book, my first thoughts we're thank god it's finished and what a disappointing ending, I found it incredibly slow and boring, very over written in places for what could have been a thoughtful story and heart warming ending,
Profile Image for Kerry.
93 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2013
This book dragged on and on! I skipped some pages because I just wanted to finish the book! Boring.
Profile Image for Mary Grand.
Author 10 books204 followers
May 26, 2016
Enjoyed this a lot, good characters and story. Much much better than According to Yes by the same author. good bit in the middle picks it all up, yes, an enjoyable read
Profile Image for Ruth.
833 reviews10 followers
November 4, 2012
Read & Reviewed for http://www.thebookbag.co.uk

When Dawn French wrote her first novel [[A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French]] I was eager to read it, looking forward to plenty of silly humour and those elusive-when-reading out loud laughs. I was disappointed unfortunately, and actually came away from the book feeling annoyed with the characters and quite discouraged and depressed somehow. So, I approached her new novel with a little trepidation, unsure as to whether she deserved a second chance. I'm glad I gave her the benefit of the doubt!

The Silvia of the title is a lady in a coma in hospital and although she is the central character of the story we don't really actually hear from her and, instead, it's the cast of characters who come to visit her who create the character of Silvia for us. Each chapter is about an individual character, often running as their own monologue of their thoughts about Silvia or the things they have to say to her. These characters range from Silvia's family members, her friend, her cleaner to her nurse, Winnie, who really felt like the lynch-pin for the whole story. Each character comes along to visit Silvia, for various different reasons, and through the things they have to say we learn about them as well as about Silvia.

I felt unsure of the style initially. Some of the characters felt a little too bonkers and I was worried the book would end up feeling forced with these character-based chapters. However, the jumps between Silvia's visitors ends up working really well. The characters are all very well portrayed, and the only one I felt was perhaps played for laughs a little too much was Silvia's cleaner, Tia, although even she has her own little back story going on and so she isn't only there to be funny. My opinion of each of the characters changed, in some cases quite dramatically, as the story progressed and it's very clever, the way different aspects of each person are revealed and then later explained, and the secrets and lies that emerge are perfectly placed and result in a very moving read.

Winnie is, by far, my favourite character. I felt myself looking forward to her chapters and hoping that if I were unlucky enough to ever have to spend some time in hospital that I would be blessed with a nurse like Winnie. Although her character initially provides a balance against the others who actually know Silvia by the end her role is crucial, not just for Silvia but for many of her visitors too. Winnie goes on something of a journey through the story, as do all the characters really as they each grow and change through the book, as result of Silvia's mysterious coma and their own responses to that.

The themes of the novel, guilt and family, secrets and love, are handled really well. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but the familial relationships in the story I found were incredibly moving towards the end. It's a story about loss, and saying goodbye, but it's also a story about finding the truth and finding love. I was surprised by how emotionally uplifting the story ultimately was and it certainly redeemed Dawn French as a writer for me. I didn't laugh out loud, but I did snigger a few times and there are some funny moments but really, don't read this expecting a comedy sketch, it's a great story just as it is and next time I won't hesitate in picking up one of her books.
Profile Image for Lainy.
1,621 reviews63 followers
June 6, 2018
Time taken to read - Over 2 days

Publisher - Penguin

Pages - 342

Source - The Works

Blurb from Goodreads

Who is in Coma Suite Number 5?

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 . . .


My Review

Sylvia is in a coma, Sylvia is loathed by members of her family, worshiped by her friend Cat. Shunned by her daughter Cassie and son Jamie, cared for by nurse Winnie, visited by Tia her cleaner, Ed her ex husband and her eccentric sister Jo. Each brings their own issues and slowly reveals Sylvia's past, their issues and relationships with her bringing the reader into the know of just who Sylvia is.

Some of the characters are hilarious, Tia is her cleaning, proud and very funny in some of her chat and outlook on matters. Cat is a complex character who happily would have Sylvia just to herself and not her family. Ed has much mixed feelings for his ex wife, the things she has done and looking back on their relationship before she changed. Cassie struggles to even look at her mother despite the critical condition she is in, Jamie refuses to acknowledge her and Jo, Jo is a wild card, chaos, dramas and very much all about her as she tries some very questionable things to "wake" her sister up.

The book is a mix of humour, sadness, tough issues, abuse, possessiveness, relationships, violence, suicidal intentions. It is also about relationships and family, huge focus on both, with Sylvia being in a coma, all the characters address all their issues with her in a very honest and raw emotive way. This is my first book by French, it won't be my last 3.5/5 for me, a very mixed bag and whilst there are a fair few characters, each chapter is titled with their name so it is very easy to follow.

Profile Image for Linda.
Author 4 books7 followers
December 31, 2012
After having read "A tiny bit marvellous" - Dawn French's debut fictional novel - I had high hopes for Oh Dear Silvia, but I was also slightly apprehensive. There was something magical (in realistic terms) about "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" and I feared she wouldn't be able to live up to this. And indeed, this novel is very different from "A tiny bit marvellous"; so much so that you feel slightly confused in the beginning. Is it a comedy? Can you even laugh about this subject (yes, you can, to a certain extent)? Is it a drama? Or a thriller? But I should have known I could relax: Dawn French is an excellent writer, and you're safe in her hands.

Although there is a mystery in this story, I don't feel this is the essence of the story. It's something else, something that is more powerful; yet at the same time very subtle. There is a vast amount of characters buzzing around the coma patient Silvia, and they all contribute, slowly, to build a picture of her; a picture that gets more and more complicated the further into the novel you come. Silvia, who seemingly without reason has rejected her whole family, is not a very likeable person, as it appears. All centred around the now lifeless hub that is Silvia, the characters deal with their grief, guilt and fear, and it becomes clear - to them, and the reader - that humanity is a vital part of moving on in life. And that's really the essence of this book. Absolution. Forgiveness. Loyalty. And love, of course.

Just like in "A Tiny Bit Marvellous", family ties take up a lot of space in this book, and is dealt with in a way that is both raw and true. And just like with "A Tiny Bit Marvellous" you finish the story with a sense of warmth, and also with the feeling that the book couldn't have ended any other way. You take farewell of the characters like they are good friends (it really feels like they are) and even if it's a bit painful, you know it's time to let go.

I thoroughly recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Katy Kelly.
2,019 reviews72 followers
January 4, 2013
Reading this has increased the respect I hold for Dawn French. I never read her first book but was interested in story of her second.

I loved it. Having just finished, and thinking about the book as a whole, it is very assured and from one you might think is an experienced writer.

Each character talks to Silvia in her coma, their stories all seen from her hospital bed (including occasional clunky exposition but that can e forgiven). Silvia is not given a voice but the story is the stronger for it. As is said near the climax, "she is the pivot for them all", all their lives are changed after her coma, with her doing and saying nothing except in flashback, her situation effects her family and those close to her.

As I am meant to, I started the book feeling certain ways about several characters and slowly and with revelations suddenly found victims and their controllers were switching places, reasons for behaviours were shed light on, misconceptions were cleared. But only for the reader.

Which made the ending more poignant. One character WILL get their comeuppance. Another's selfless actions will possibly never be understood, but if so, never can be made right.

Very impressive. This really hit a nerve with me. I loved the characters and the revelations, and the writing. Well done Ms French!
Profile Image for Helena Halme.
Author 23 books208 followers
February 10, 2013
Not for me, this book. Although there's nothing wrong with the writing, I just could not believe in the characters. They all seemed unreal to me, including Silvia, who although in a coma, was the largest presence in the book.

As the title reveals, the story circles around Silvia, who is lying unconscious in a hospital intensive care unit. We meet her ex-husband, her estranged daughter, her best friend, her cleaner and her nurse, who all talk to the sleeping Silvia, revealing what has happened in the past. All, except the kindly nurse, have their axes to grind with the unconscious patient, who by all accounts isn't a very nice person. Or is she just misunderstood?

I'm a great fan of Dawn French, but something in this novel just didn't ring true to me. Perhaps it was the omniscient point of view, mixed in with the first person narratives of Silvia's nearest and dearest. Perhaps it was the colloquial accents that French used liberally throughout. Or perhaps I just couldn't believe the story. In order not to give the plot away, I shan't divulge any details, but honestly, could all that really happen to one family?

Sorry, Dawn!
Profile Image for Alex.
301 reviews19 followers
November 30, 2015
Oh dear, Silvia. I really did not enjoy this much at all. The plot was barely there; it felt like 300 pages of blathering on. The writing style itself felt incredibly amateur, and maybe it's because I was writing my own novel at the same time, but it just seemed so cringeworthy and I could spot exactly the same tactics I was using to increase my word count without writing anything of quality. The concept of a person being multi-faceted was interesting, but it just didn't come across well in the book. Add to that the fact that Winnie and Tia are both written in phonetic Jamaican and Asian accents, which comes across terribly. It may not necessarily be racist, but the idea of white middle class Dawn French sitting and typing out how she thinks a Jamaican lady will say things. Please, no.

Also, this was meant to be funny???? There is literally nothing in it that I even thought was meant to be a joke.

It's not very often I rate a book less than 3 stars, but... this one earned it. Sorry.

If you want a good Dawn French book, read A Tiny Bit Marvelous.

{Read 08/10/2015-28/11/2015}
Author 2 books24 followers
October 6, 2015
I had a bit of trouble deciding on a star rating for this book. Some aspects I would rate very highly, and towards the end of the book, I was shouting internally that it couldn't possibly end satisfactorily (but it actually did, sort of, I think). Then, there were other aspects which really irritated me, such as the VERY OVERUSED dialect of Winnie. It's just so hard to read, and you really don't need that much of it to understand that the character has a thick Jamaican accent. We get it, alright! Okay, so I was clearly irritated by that. Other parts were heartbreakingly sad. I did not, however, think that the book was 'side-splitting' or 'hilarious', which were terms used on the front cover to describe the book. Yes, there was a bit of dark humour, and I smiled at a couple of things (mainly concerned with Tia) but I think there was a bit of false advertising at work here. Okay, so overall, I enjoyed reading the book and would probably give it 3.75 so I'll round it up to 4.
Profile Image for Clare.
32 reviews4 followers
July 11, 2013
I won this book in a Goodread giveaway, and was really looking forward to reading it... I'm a big fan of Dawn French and have read a few of her previous books, so I expected this book to be as good as the rest, how wrong I was !.
I've tried for weeks to get into this book, but the going from character to character, never sticking to one train of thought, just made my head hurt.
There is some funny parts in this book that will make you laugh out loud, and the characters themselves are very interesting, but there is just something about this book that is missing.. and for me it made this a very disappointing read.
94 reviews
January 5, 2013
I loved this! I couldn't tell you what genre this book is because i found it dark, funny, moving it was so much more than i was expecting after reading some of the mixed reviews. It starts slowly and the reader is introduced one by one to Sylvia's visitors ( Tia was a brilliant character to lift the mood of the book)and I wondered where exactly the plot was going, but right in the middle the book took a completely different direction and from then on i couldn't put this book down! I will not include any spoilers, but the book has one of the most awful characters ever written, the most hateful person ever. I can't wait for Dawn to write another book and i hope it's as good as this!
Profile Image for Carol.
686 reviews2 followers
December 2, 2014
My first Dawn French read, and definitely the last. Populated by bizarre, extreme caricatures, it is difficult to have a shred of empathy with any of the characters as they visit Sylvia, their wife/mother/sister/lover/ patient/ employer who lies in an ITU in a coma. The style is clumsy, much of the narrative is overwritten and the attempts at using devices such as letters and dialect lack any subtlety. Difficult to grasp why some critics describe it as hilarious. Immature and clunky..yes; hilarious..no!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 940 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.