Dear Fatty by Dawn French

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Dear Fatty by Dawn French

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: A memoir by comedy actress Dawn French, written throughout in the form of letters to members of her family, old schoolfriends, professional friends and even childhood heroes.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Century
ISBN: 978-1846053443

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Showbiz memoirs are often difficult to write, at least without a collaborator who can help the writer to keep a reasonable sense of perspective. (For a good example of a readable actor's own life story, try Dennis Waterman's ReMinder). Dawn French has opted for a completely different approach, by telling her tale in the form of letters. The first is to you and I, the reader, while others are to family, including her mother, brother Gary, her father (who took his own life when she was aged 19), her husband Lenny Henry, old schoolfriends, and other showbiz icons.

For the most part, these read as if she is talking to you directly. If you're familiar with her television appearances, you can more or less hear her voice leap from the page. (And if you can't, Amazon also lists an audio version). Some of them relate to her upbringing and schooldays in Plymouth, my own place of work since way back when, and coincidentally I was reading much of this book on the bus while within a mile or two of several places she mentions.

For the most part, they are very funny. Swopping reminiscences of teenage misdeeds at school – it's the sort of thing 99% of us must have done, but true to form she makes us laugh with her memories. Fan letters to the Monkees, George Clooney, David Cassidy and to Val Doonican, the latter asking him for an interpretation of apparently hidden meanings she has come across in the song 'Paddy McGinty's Goat', also raise a chuckle. Later on there are chatty ones written friend-to-friend to Madonna, including an ironically topical one begging her not to get divorced. As for the list of 30 things for which she should apologise for having done on the premises of parents of everyone she ever babysat for while she was a hard-up student – that's one to let you discover for yourself. Only one of them includes eating their stash of chocolate, by the way.

The most moving ones are undoubtedly those to her father. None is more poignant than the one in which she relates the circumstances of his tragic death, and rails at him for having left them. How could you do this to us? It's only fair to add that through her misery and grief she admits that if I love you, I have to try to understand what drove him to it. Later on, there's quite a moving yet at the same time very funny one to a pal who died after being diagnosed HIV positive, and of her attempts to scatter his ashes off the top of the Empire State Building. It never quite worked out like that.

There is a slight downside, though it's probably not unexpected. I found the occasional obsession with lavatory humour a tad wearisome (OK, I know Dawn French isn't from the Margaret Rutherford generation, but even so…), and when she's telling a joke she tends to string it out far longer than necessary. It's fine if you're doing stand-up comedy on the stage, but on the printed page it doesn't really work. Here and there you get the impression that she's padding out the book with stuff which she probably found hilarious writing, but about which an editor might have done well to administer a gentle 'now look here'. For example, three pages of some of her more memorable liptastic moments – all right, perhaps it's a male reviewer's prerogative not to find these things side-splittingly funny. Sorry.

That apart, it's unlikely to disappoint. Any Dawn French fans will love it.

Our thanks to Century for sending a copy to Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this, why not try the story through the eyes of another - Dawn French: The Unauthorized Biography by Alison Bowyer.

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Buy Dear Fatty by Dawn French at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Fatty by Dawn French at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dear Fatty by Dawn French at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear Fatty by Dawn French at


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