Oh Dear Silvia
Harper, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
Reviewed by Bob Walch
he situation is a bit macabre but author Dawn French never has been one for following convention when it comes to creating television scripts or writing novels. The scenario French has devised for her latest novel involves the indomitable Silvia Shute who has fallen from her balcony and is in a coma.
ilvia's doctors have encouraged those who know the comatose woman to stop by her hospital room and share their feelings about her. Perhaps it will bring her out of the coma. Perhaps it won't. But either way it can't hurt to try and there aren't too many other options available right now.
nd so it begins. One after another, a string of friends, relatives and acquaintances parade through the hospital room and, since Silvia is in no condition to reply, they tell her exactly what they think of her. This may be the last chance to get these feelings out in the open and it will be far more therapeutic for the visitors than for Silvia. Or will it?
he cast of characters whose innermost feelings are exposed in this unusual novel include Silvia's former and present husbands, her free-spirited older sister who smuggles a male stripper into the hospital room hoping this might revive Silvia (it doesn't), and her two, estranged, adult children.
s each one-sided encounter plays out, the reader discovers a great deal about Silvia as well as those she has touched in one way or another. Some will see this narrative as a series of dark comedy sketches and I wouldn't disagree with them.
ut as you eavesdrop on the memories, confessions, and mad ravings of Silvia's family, friends, and caretakers, you'll suddenly realize that there's more going on here. This tragic situation is also bringing out some of the best and worst qualities of these people as they vent their true and often conflicted feelings about Silvia Shute.
f you'd like a very memorable reading experience I'd suggest you also drop by Silvia's hospital room and listen to what is unfolding there.
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