Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Dear Fatty (Dawn French)

--The blurb--
"Dawn French is one of the greatest comedy actresses, encompassing a vast and brilliant array of characters. Loved for her irreverent humour, Dawn has achieved massive mainstream success while continuing to push boundaries and challenge stereotypes. This title chronicles the rise of this complex, dynamic and unstoppable woman."

--The review--
The barrage of criticism directed at the cult of the celebrity autobiography is a thoroughly comprehensible one: the profession of ghostwriting is not one that people necessarily want to feed to due its dubious moral quality, especially since it often still results in a low standard of writing, and in any case, is the aspiration to and admiration of celebrity status really something that's worth encouragement?

In Dawn French's case, she is something to aspire to, and her autobiography is certainly worth reading (especially, as is indicated by the quality of the writing and the lack of thinly-veiled acknowledgements, it was almost definitely written by her). The epistolary format is an original method of approaching the autobiography task and gives this tome at least one reason why it stands out on the shelf. Equally, as well as addressing the usual suspects (friends, family, and famous colleagues), French also writes to a few more unusual choices, including Madonna.

Lamentably, though, the Madonna letters were the weakest; while reading, one has the impression that these particular letters would be far more amusing if you were listening to French reading them rather than just reading them on your own in your head, so this could be a legitimate reason to recommend the audiobook over the print version. Refreshingly little time is given to The Vicar of Dibley, with French spending an equal amount of time on all of her various exploits, including her childhood and on her poignant attempts to conceive. The personal and professional aspects of the autobiography are well-blended (and not just because of French's well-known marriage to other famous comedian, Lenny Henry).

French's humour also, predictably, comes into full force, with the passage about babysitters' apologies being a surefire laugh-out-loud moment. She successfully manages to blend this humour with poignancy and high-quality writing to create a really excellent autobiography which should be stocked at the front of every bookshop's celebrity section (and if those by Jordan and other such ilk could languish in the bargain bin - or recycling bin - that would be great too).

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