Friday, July 20, 2012

A Tiny Bit Marvellous - Dawn French

Title: A Tiny Bit Marvellous
Author: Dawn French
Publication information: Penguin Group

"This first novel by Dawn French is told through the eyes of a mother and her two teenage children. There's seventeen-year-old Dora, a stroppy teenager who's just come out of her first relationship (it lasted a whole six weeks) and who's longing to escape to university; her long-suffering mother, Mo, a child psychiatrist who's baffled by the antagonist behaviour of her children; and sixteen-year-old Peter, who prefers to be known as Oscar due to his obsession with Oscar Wilde. Written in diary format, with each chapter narrated by a different voice, this is a hilarious, sharp and utterly compelling novel about the ups and down of family, sibling rivalry and growing up. With each chapter told from the point of view of one character, Dawn French's witty and engaging novel offers us an honest and insightful account into the relationships between children and parents."

The plot of this book was quite confusing at first as the story is told from the point of view of three different members of the Battle family who are all going through different things. Although it took a while to get into, I began to really like certain characters and look forward to their chapters over others. The plot itself was quite simple throughout, until the end, where I was genuinely surprised. Some reviews I have read have said that they found the ending predictable but I personally found it a perfect finish to this type of book. I don't usually get drawn to books like this, and other than John Green, I haven't really read any contemporary fiction, but knowing Dawn French from her comedy and television career, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of her as an author.

The characters were all very compelling and I think that telling a story from all these different perspectives would attract different types of reader. All of the characters were very caricatured but I think that this was necessary for this kind of novel.
Mo did not interest me at all at first. I found her to be quite boring and dull and just the run-of-the-mill mother in this book, but then I realised that this is why her storyline became so interesting. I began to gradually look forward to her chapters and was genuinely interested in her story.
Dora was hilarious but slightly annoying. I found the swearing and the ridiculous insults that she came out with really funny but overall, I think she acted and sounded a lot younger than seventeen throughout this book. However, I did really like Dora and I like that she was the typical angsty teenager. 
Oscar/Peter was an interesting character, mostly because I didn't really understand his character until about half way through the book, where he became much more rounded as a person rather than just a flamboyant accessory to the rest of the story.
Husband, to me was a really interesting character. This is mostly because you don't even know his name until literally the last word of the book and he is a mystery even though you know certain things about him from the other characters. I think that overall he was the most well rounded character even though he is only ever addressed as Husband, and even in the one chapter written from his point of view, he is called Dad, which I thought was really appropriate for the content and events that take place in that particular chapter. 
Pamela was also interesting, if not unusual for a grandmother. She was very down to earth and liked baking cakes, and her nursing background was evident throughout the novel.

The writing in this book was really interesting. Each of the main characters, Mo, Dora and Oscar, spoke in a completely different fashion; Dora was erratic with her language, speaking with a lot of swearing and slang, with some sections being scripts of instant messaging, Mo was more correct but still a believable character, and Oscar, through his obsession with Oscar Wilde and his flamboyancy, spoke in a more poetic way. I think that this helped differentiate between the characters and helped you, as the reader, to not confuse them at all.

Overall, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars as I think it was a very interesting read but it took me a while to get into. I really loved the ending and the way that it was written, paired with the bright characters.

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