DEAR 'MOO' FRENCH,
Forgive me for my informality in addressing you in such a manner. You don't know me and I really don't know you (as revealing as your autobiography may be). However, I use this informality knowing just how splendid a day we could have together, breaking down the walls of formality to become splendid chums. I mean, I'm not nearly as witty as some of your comedy friends but I'm quite nice. However, a lot of the stuff I do is unintentionally funny so you'd have some great material right there.
I was thinking we could test-run the 'chum' things with a spot of afternoon tea somewhere, with doilies and the works. You see, I'm not your usual fan. I won't be chirping 'More tea, vicar' at every opportunity. In fact, if any cheeky waiter or passer by does try this one on you I promise I will beat them with a stick. See, that's the sort of chum I am...
And if the age difference makes the chum thing a bit awkward maybe you could just be my second mum. You seem to be awfully good at it. Not that there's anything wrong with my mum - she's a star, just not of the red carpet and comedy circuit variety. But you could definitely have a go at being my mum too (you've got some stiff competition though, I might add). I reckon you'd be amazing at cheering me up when I'm down. You look like you'd provide some top quality huggage, even if you've lost quite a lot of your motherly bosom as of late with your amazing weight lose.
When I'm really down you could just give me some in depth details about what it's like to snog Richard Armitage. This could help improve my daydream visuals although this is possibly not wholly appropriate for our 'mother-daughter' relationship...
Whatever the case, please join me for a scone or two. It's much too weird seeing you as a skinny 'Moo'.
Sarah (Aged 23 ½)
I thought Dawn French was at her best when I first saw her in the 'Vicar of Dibley'. She is just so perfectly suited to the role of the fun-loving and vivacious village vicar, Geraldine Granger. Her comedy performances are superb and she emits a cuddliness and warmth that would have even ME in church every Sunday. Of course, she started out her comedy career on 'The Comic Strip' in the 80s with comedy personalities such as Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmonson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson. This was where she started up her comedy double act with Jennifer Saunders. They would eventually go off to create their own show 'French and Saunders', showing all those lads that women can pull off the comedy lark too.
She released her autobiography back in 2008 with the title 'Dear Fatty' which quite affectionately and ironically refers to her slimmer partner in crime, Saunders. The book itself is made up of a sort of patchwork of letters written to various notable people who have had some sort of influence in her life (Thus explaining my own letter to the cuddly comedienne at the beginning of this review). I suppose that some people may be put off by this mish-mash sort of style. She simply refuses to follow the standard autobiography format - she admits herself at the start of the book that she'd rather treat it as a memoir rather than an autobiography. She therefore avoids the run-of-the-mill linear, chronological layout that most celebrities use in their autobiographies and I think that it's a quite refreshing and inventive change. She includes letters written to quite a variety of different people in her life, from her father to childhood celebrity crushes, and of course, there are a few letters addressed to dearest 'Fatty'. By writing to the people in her life, many of whom are very close to her heart, she provides you with a very honest account of incidents within her life, warts an' all. This is a book where Dawn really bares her soul. It is written in a conversational style which makes you are gaining a true insight into the real Dawn French and her life. The extent of information about her life experiences and innermost thoughts and feelings makes the account feel almost voyeuristic, if it was not for the fact that she is the one inviting you in to read about it all...
*~It ISN'T ALL ABOUT THE FAME...~*
One of the most striking things about the autobiography is that she talks more about her own personal life than she does about her showbiz career. Of course, we get to hear some things about her rise to fame - starting out on the Comic Strip, being on stage and filming the Vicar of Dibley. However, we get to hear more about the person behind the comedy persona. We hear about her life growing up - having to move from school to school and from place to place as her father worked for the RAF. We get to hear about her first loves, her family, her time at college and how she met the man who was to be her husband, Lenny Henry. We are also met by a heartbreaking account of her father's death. I suppose some people would be tempted to use that old cliché and say that this is an event that allows us to see the heartbreak behind the laughter and the smiles. However, I would say that this is not quite the case. Certainly, Dawn French's dad committed suicide when she was just 19 and this had a devastating impact upon her and her family. In this book, a lot of the letters are addressed to her father and you gain the impression that, by writing to him, this has acted as a form of therapy for Dawn. The death of her father is no doubt something that she will struggle to forget. Nevertheless, I find her writings about this difficult subject to be quite inspirational and highlight one of her most valuable traits - her ability to deal with the difficult things in life with such positivity. As upsetting as her father's passing may have been, I think that the way she writes about it is a true testament to her strength and ability to remain so upbeat in spite of what happened.
Another admirable quality of Dawn French is that she has not allowed her ascent to fame to raise her up to that lofty and aloof place where most celebrities seem to go. Not only does she seem like a very down to earth and genuine person but she bemoans the nature of fame and value that people place on 'celebrity'. In one fantastic passage she states that fame is 'toxic'...
'There are benefits, but even those are dangerous if you get too used to them...you are constantly on guard to resist the bluster of gushing praise which is blown up your bum. It's very tempting to swig from it, but it is a poisoned chalice. I find the status and value system in our country confusing - how have we come to this place where footballers and singers and jesters are prized above teachers and doctors and carers? Don't get me wrong - I don't underestimate the importance of entertainment, not at all, but why are we paying so much attention to the wrong people?'
After she lambasted the nature of fame and our love of celebrity I couldn't help but adore this woman more. It's quite clear we live in a society where there are young girls who would rather be glamour models than doctors. So many of us seem to bow down on our knees, worship and drink at the fountain that is 'celebrity'. And those things called the Kardashians - They are nothing but a bloody disease disease, a great bit blot upon society...
I'm just glad that someone else shares my dislike of the Western world's obsession with fame and realises that greater value can be placed on many of the people we see and greet in our everyday lives.
*~A HILARIOUS LADY~*
One of the best things about this book is just how funny it is, demonstrating her talent for observational comedy and her sharp eye for the hilarities of life. From the very outset, the book had me laughing out loud. There is one spectacular incident when she is a little girl and she accidently sees her dad bollock naked. Shocked at the sight of her dad's unmentionables, she thinks there's a peculiar animal latched to his groin area and she begins attacking in it, whilst her parents are gripped by unbelievable laughter. Even when she was a little girl she was pretty hilarious, even if she didn't mean to be.
The book itself is written in a quirky and amusing style as she muses upon the things that happened in her life. She doesn't avoid talking about her insecurities either and spends a few pages noting observations about her own body and her hang ups. She laments her 'underarm beach balls' which appear when she is lying down at the beach and her constant inability to find a flattering bra for her 42H chest. What I found really quite amusing is when she apologizes to all flat-chested women for her 'seemingly appalling greed'. And sorry you should be Ms French. I'll have some of your bosom any day.
My favourite parts of the books are the two lists which she compiles - a list of all the people she has kissed and a letter to all the parents she babysat for. Her letter to all the parents she babysat made me giggle. It lists all the various naughty things she did at their houses of various children she baby sat for. This was not limited to just her trying on their clothes, their make up and eating their chocolate. The funniest confessions include her admission that she did have 'a small bit of sex' with her boyfriend on their sofa and that she 'did tell some people who called up that [they] had gone to a swingers party'.
As for her list of all the people she has kissed, Dawn states that she made it her goal in life to 'test-drive as many lips as possible before I am too ancient and repulse my accomplices.' As a result she has kissed a great number of men AND women in this quest - a feat which left me tickled and just a wee bit jealous. Dawn lists and describes a vast list of smooches she has experienced in her life including her kiss with Hugh Grant ('professional'), Brad Pitt ('a woman's mouth, bliss'), Johnny Depp ('sweet, respectful...'), George Clooney ('bold, unashamed...') and to make me even more ridiculously envious, the delicious being that is Richard Armitage ('shy, giggling, loving'). What I would give to have Richard Armitage's lips pressed up against mine. Dawn French, you absolute b***h...
*~A QUEEN OF COMEDY~*
When it comes to their funny bone credentials, female comediennes do get a bit of stick for being less funny than their fellow men folk. This is why it's always nice to have performers like Dawn French who show us that women can be just as hilarious as the men.
Some people are just born funny and Dawn seems to be one of them. This is something that shines throughout the whole book where there are some real laugh-out-loud moments and many more that made me smile.
As for the stories she tells and the things she writes about, at the beginning of the book she explains that she has endeavoured not just to tell us about any old dull event in her life. In fact, it appears that Dawn has been careful about what she chooses to write about and as a result, this makes the content of the book fascinating and engaging. It's an easy and interesting read which you can just 'gobble up' in a few sittings. We don't have to hear of any drab encounters about when she 'put the washing machine on the wrong cycle'. However, I'm sure that with her wit and story-telling capabilities, should she have chosen to writ about her washing machine she probably would have made this domestic 'disaster' into an interesting read with its very own anecdote (like those internet reviewers who display wit when they are only writing about a Tesco Value kettle - kudos to you).
All in all, 'Dear Fatty' is an engaging and hilarious account of the life of one of Britain's best female comediennes. What is most extraordinary about the book is undoubtedly the great positivity that appears to have driven her throughout her whole life, despite any adversity and hardship she has come across. I think that this sort of quality in a person is quite beautiful and it is for this reason that this is quite a beautiful book.
It is clear to see from her autobiography that Dawn is a very warm, fun-loving and admirable person in many ways and I think a lot of us (myself included) could learn a lot from her outlook on life. We may not have had her sparkling comedy career but it's quite clear from her perspective that there is more to life than celebrity and the trappings of fame...
*~And what about the pictures?~*
Pictures in the middle! I must face it - Whenever I read an autobiography I skip straight to the middle to view any retro pictures of the celebrity in question. I rather enjoyed the pictures in Dawn French's book - pictures of her young father looking uncannily like herself, pictures of her meeting the Queen Mother and a rather hilarious teenage picture entitled 'Moody and recently sexed' (which reminded me disturbingly of a young picture of my mum when she was on holiday with my dad. Yeuch!).
*~WHERE TO BUY?~*
You shouldn't have any trouble getting this cheap. At the moment it's only £1.89 for a used copy on Amazon. Not bad at all!
*~Thanks for reading my review : - ) Also published on Ciao under username Renza - March 2012~*
*What made me part with my cash for this book?
First off - I like Dawn French. She can make me laugh with little effort and I genuinely feel comfortable watching her perform and reading her work. Having recently enjoyed her first novel I was intrigued by this book. Dawn is gifted with natural, warm humor - I anticipated a good read.
The cover of the book is fresh and appealed to me - I like the font which looks like it could be Dawn's own hand writing and the blurb on the back cover convinced me that I was making the right decision in purchasing.
*Does Dawn shine or does she fade?
The first thing to note about the style of the writing is that Dawn uses letter format. These letters are to her nearest and dearest and some past crushes are included too. I wondered how this would flow initially and if I would develop a good understanding of her history - but my concerns were soon dissolved. The letters work really well and I found that I was able to concentrate and retain information because of this style. I could detect Dawn's dialect easily from the writing style and I could imagine the sound of her voice reading aloud these letters to me - I thought the words flowed well. Each letter is an adequate length to tell a good tale but not overlong that I found it to be dull.
It is funny how we can have expectations and I did - I expected each page to be filled with comedy and thought I would be laughing out loud often. This is not the case and why would it be - Dawn is a comedian by profession but that does not mean that every part of her life is filled with gags. I found certain chapters of Dawn's life - especially memories of her father - extremely poignant and felt privileged to be allowed into such tender memories.
Dawn comes across as genuine and honest in her accounts. There are some fabulous tales about her nana's and cousins that did have me laughing out loud and when I repeated them to my husband and friends they too found them to be hilarious. One stands out from the rest for me and it concerns a cousin offering his advice to a shy young man about attracting the attention of the opposite sex - on the beach in speedo's. The instruction I will not give away but believe me it is unique and had my imagination running riot, rib tickling humor.
As you will know, if you have watched French and Saunders, Dawn and Jennifer like to have a little bit of Madonna inspired entertainment every now and again. It is not surprising that a few letters included in Dawn's book are addressed to the blonde bombshell - these I found amusing.
I loved the sections of memorabilia and old photographs. They were great to see once you had read the relevant letters. Some of the clothes are so funny, but we have all been there - strange that we thought we looked so cool at the time! It was lovely to see Dawn's beloved father too.
I can see a totally different side to Dawn now. A daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife, mother, aunty and friend to many. A young girl who made mistakes and learned from them as we do when we travel the path of life. At a tender age experiencing tragedy and learning how to cope. Developing strength of character through relocation in her vulnerable years. Realising a true friend when she sees one and cherishing them always - to this day. Having the confidence to try new things and follow her dream - this I found very inspiring. Remaining grounded even though her persona has been elevated by fame - I have always thought of Dawn as a genuinely warm person and that came across well.
Dawn shines - not just as a star but in her writing style. I soon discovered that she doesn't need to be trying to make me laugh on every page, I am interested in her life experiences - and I hoped to get to know her (the real Dawn) a little better. I did.
*Recommend? Or leave on the shelf?
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the composition as it flowed really well. The letter style format was a change and kept things interesting. I loved the inclusion of lots of great photographs, it was great to put faces to names and see Dawn in all kinds of fashion mistakes (we have all been there). The best way to approach the book is to have no expectations - this book is not an effort to make you laugh till your sides hurt, though there are lots of laughs along the way. My impression of the book is that you gain a very honest and open account of Dawn's personal life experiences - some that I felt extremely privileged to be given access to. This book gets you a little closer to Dawn French the real person and she is a genuinely lovely lady - with a great sense of humor. I would recommend it.
*If Dawn appeals here's how to get it
Currently £4.89 on amazon.co.uk
Also available on ebay and other good book stores.
*Thanks for reading - also published on Ciao
Dear Fatty is the autobiography of comedienne and actor Dawn French who I have long been a fan of. I enjoy watching her bubbly personality and think some of the comedy shows she has been done have been excellent, although I was less familiar with her straight acting roles. The book was published in 2008, prior to her splitting from her husband Lenny Henry. Whilst this is not mentioned in my book, she does allude to a fling that he had.
Unlike most conventional autobiographies, she has written her book as a series of letters. The 'Fatty' in question is Jennifer Saunders, her partner in crime in a lot of her comedy work. Strangely, considering the title, not that many letters are actually addressed to her, the majority are written to her late father, who committed suicide when she was nineteen. Generally the letters are written chronologically, so letters about memories of her childhood come first, but she intersperses these with letters to her nieces and nephews who would not have been born then, or to friends. This brings the book more up to date during these periods briefly, so you don't get too bogged down in the pre-comedy days. In fact I enjoyed the childhood memories more than the Comic Strip memories, Dawn writes amusingly and engagingly. I don't think the book is laugh out loud funny, but it did make me smile with her self-deprecating humour. At times I was also moved, especially with some of the letters to her father, the pain she and her family went through after his death is evident, and she is anguished that he suffered to, and hurt that he left them. Also, an open letter to her adoptive daughter Billie about her birth mother (no identities revealed obviously) and how she gave her up because she loved her so much, was also very moving.
Whilst coming across as a nice person and the sort of person you enjoy meeting up for a drink or meal with, Dawn also acknowledges her flaws. She gets frustrated when she gets treated as a celebrity, especially when she is attending her daughter's sports events. She does get a bit of a dig in to an ex-boyfriend who did a newspaper interview about their relationship though. I can imagine that would sting. Apart from that she was very frank and open about her relationships (with family and friends, not just boyfriends); obviously there were aspects of her (then) current relationship with Henry that she wanted to keep to herself, and I can respect that.
I really enjoyed the book. I liked the letter format, I thought it was a very good idea as it kept the book flowing, as some autobiographies can be quite dry in the early parts as they re-count their childhood years, and this is one way round that. Dawn writes well, with candour and humour, whilst the letters can make you smile or bring a lump to your throat. Obviously fans of her work will want to read this anyway (if they haven't already) and I do think it is one that many others will enjoy as the format makes it easy to get into. Some letters are longer than others, but at no point was I mentally willing for her to 'get on with it' as I have with some autobiographies.
The RRP is £7.99 for my paperback copy, but I am sure you will be able to purchase it cheaper online. My copy had less than 400 pages, and the letter format made it a quicker read than usual as you lose space as each letter starts a new page.
This is the autobiography of Dawn French the much loved British Actress, we follow her from her early days as an RAF recruit through to her work in the Comic Strip, French and Saunders and Vicar of Dibley.
The book doesn't hide anything, it is honest and funny, French writes in a style of letters describing her early life, her issues with her size, her dreams and ambitions and her development into one of the best loved British performers.
She writes about her relationships with her father and mother, the death of her father, her rise to fame with her good friends Jennifer Saunders and her courtship and marriage to the comedian (and now her ex- husband), Lenny Henry.
It is a warts and all book as she is honest enough to accept that people haven't always accepted her build and although it has helped her in a comedic sense it has really caused trouble in her life at others.
We follow her rise with her friend Jennifer Saunders, read of her early dreams (to be a ballerina) and discover a slightly more thoughtful side than she presents in public life, what comes across is her love of life and ability not to let anything get her down.
This is a funny and at times moving account of the life of one of Britains best loved entertainers. The book is available for £8.99 in WH Smiths and can also be purchased online, it is available in paperback and hardback form and may be due an update in the near future following her recent divorce from her husband.
What came across most for me from this book is what a nice person French is, and how funny she really is, the book is a real biography with humour, heartache and more humour, its well worth a read if you like Dawn French in any of the numerous roles she has portrayed.
My daughter bought me "Dear Fatty" by Dawn French for Christmas this year and I have just finished reading it. It is the sort of book that you can pick and put down as it is written as a series of letters to Dawn's family and friends and other important people in her life, such as popstars she loved as a teenager! Each letter is self-contained so the book can either be read in one go or fitted around other novels you may be reading.
I have always loved and admired Dawn French, especially in The Vicar of Dibley which I can watch time and again and find funny every time.
The book, "Dear Fatty" is an autobiography but is different to any other book of this type that I have read before. In fact, Dawn herself says that it is more of a memoir of events that have happened in her life. As mentioned above, it is written in the form of letters. A lot of the letters are written to Dawn's dad who she lost to suicide when she was 19. There are also quite a few letters to "Dear Fatty" (Jennifer Saunders) and others to her mum, brother, daughter and various other family members and friends and, of course, to Lenny Henry, her husband.
At the beginning of the book Dawn explains that the letters are written to her Dad to tell him all the things that have happened in her life since he died and she goes on to reminisce about her childhood and times spent with her Dad and family whilst they were moving around when her Dad was in the RA. Later in the book the letters to her Dad are telling him things that have happened to her since he died and are quite poignant as, of course, he didn't get to see her grow up and get married, meet her daughter or become a successful comedienne and actress. Her love for her father shines through the letters mixed with regret that he died so young and joy for the time they spent together.
Her letter to Lenny Henry is especially poignant as since writing the book they have now separated. It was reported in the newspapers a few years ago that Lenny had an affair with another woman but it appeared that Lenny and Dawn recovered from this and stayed together. Obviously, we now know, that this did not work out. However, when the book was written they are still together and Dawn has written a beautiful, honest account of that time and explains how Lenny realised that he had made a massive mistake and was so sorry to have hurt his family. Dawn obviously loves him deeply and thanks him for their marriage and all the good times they have shared. Her account of him shows him as a caring, family orientated man who obviously loves Dawn and their daughter, who is easy going and funny and who is her soul mate. I felt incredibly sad reading this, knowing that they are now not together and wondering what finally went so wrong. They appear to be made for each other.
The last two paragraphs make the book look rather sad and maudlin. It is not! There are loads of "laugh out loud" moments and even the sad bits are in no way maudlin. There is humour in every chapter, be it in something funny that happened to Dawn or just her inimitable style. She is a naturally funny lady but also clever and caring and full of optimism for life and what lays ahead in her life. Her time as partner in crime with Jennifer Saunders has now ended but their friendship which has endured for many years will continue as she writes warmly about Jennifer and their many adventures together. Hopefully they will both continue separately to entertain us with their unique sense of humour.
This is a lovely book which I will keep and definitely read again and again. Much more than just an autobiography it gives an insight into Dawn's life and her personality and I reinforces my first impression that she is a lovely person.
I asked for this book as a christmas present, as i have long been a fan of Dawn French and find all her work very entertaining. When I recieved it I was not disappointed ! It is a very funny but at the same time very moving and truthful book, that I have read again and again. Dawn is not afraid to show how much she has been through, both good and bad. A few highlights, in my opinion, would be the list of people she has kissed (very funny!), the descriptions of all the characters she has known and the sad but very moving chapter about her fathers suicide. In this chapter we see a side of Dawn that is more serious, which we dont see on screen.
However, and I am not sure wheather I am just being dim, but there is something very confusing about this book. 'Fatty' is supposed to be Jennifer Saunders, but who is 'The BF' supposed to be? They are always being cross referenced, and the person who is supposed to be the BF looks nothing like Jennifer in the picture provided in the book. I thought it strange that Jennifer did not get a thank you at the end of the book, unless she is 'The BF'..? Very confusing.
Apart from that, in my opinion, this is a fantastic, well written book, with sad moments, happy moments and very funny moments ! If you like Dawn's work then i would highly reccomend this book to you.
I first published this on another site
Looking along the biography shelf in my local library I came across the book 'Dear Fatty' which claimed to be autobiographical by Dawn French.
I must admit that I had heard that Dawn French had written a book, and at the time I was quite interested to read it, however I soon forgot all about it, already having an overflowing pile of books to get through! I was very pleased to have found it in my library as they are not always that quick at getting new(ish) titles on the shelf.
So I went to the checking out desk and carried the book home happy that I would finally get to read this little gem.
What is the book about?
Obviously it's about Dawn French for starters! We get to find out quite a bit about her family, a little about her school days, a fair bit about past boyfriends and all about her comedy career, how she got started and where she is up to in her life with a bit of a hint as to what she plans to do next.
This book doesn't go into the problems her and her husband had a few years back, she does mention them but not in any detail. I found this a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping to get a true account of what actually happened as the press never seem to report what really goes on. In fact Dawn even says that the press got it all wrong, but she still doesn't set the record straight!
Would I enjoy this book?
That is an interesting question, I'm not quite sure about this book myself so how can I recommend it to others? The reason I'm not overly enthusiastic about this book is that I don't much like the format. Rather than a usual autobiography where you start, usually, in childhood and touch on important events leading up to, in Dawn's case the start of her famous career, she has opted to share parts of her life in the format of letters. These consist of letters to her dead father, her best friend, various boyfriends, Jennifer Saunders and a few others such as celebrities. Some of these letters are utter nonsense, such as letters she writes to Madonna, where as the letters she writes to her father are, at times, quite touching. However it's not clear whether some of these letters were written a while ago whilst she was in the moment (such as one about being a teenager in love with David Cassidy), or if they have all been written at the same time just for the sake of this book.
Overall I would say that I have been disappointed with this book. I first checked it out of the library in November and it's February and I still haven't quite finished it yet (I have however renewed it so as not to owe the library more than the book is worth in fines!) I do plan to finish the last few pages before I finally return the book to my library. I have now indeed finished the book in March, but only because the library told me I couldn't keep it any longer and I hate not finishing a book right to the bitter end, acknowledgments and all!
So it's not a real page turner, more of a slow read. It's a book that you can easily pick up and read just a few pages and then put down.
There are quite a few pages of colour photographs of Dawn with her family and friends and former colleagues (think lots of comedians). These are interspersed throughout the middle part of the book, she does mention some of the photographs specifically in her letters but obviously the publishers found it too difficult to put certain photos right after these letters, instead they have bunched them up into (I think) 4 sections.
If you are a huge fan of Dawn's comedy then you may enjoy this book, however if you only have a passing interest then I would suggest that this is not the book for you. I would class myself as a fan of most of Dawn's work and I was still not all that interested in much of this book. Yes some of her comedy does shine through, and you do learn a bit about her background and how she met her fellow comedian's, however it just wasn't enough to keep me interested.
I would conclude that I wasn't a fan of the style of writing and if I saw another book written in a similar style (nothing but letters) I wouldn't bother to pick it up.
366 pages (paperback version)
Printed by arrow books (first printed by Century in 2008)
This book is written in a series of letters, which makes it easy to pick up and put down without feeling as if you are going to forget the plot. Each letter gives a little more insight into Dawn French, who isn't traditionally one of the celebrities you see paparazzi pictures of falling out of nightclubs. It becomes apparent that Dawn is a very intelligent woman, with a great love for family and friends which comes across strongly. In particular, her admiration for her husband, Lenny Henry, shines through - she is very proud of him. If you were expecting this book to be similar to a comedy series you will be disappointed. Although there is no shortage of humour, it runs alongside personal memories which include a degree of pathos. However, if you bought the book to learn more about Dawn French, you will have mostly achieved your aim by the last pages.
Dear Fatty is the BEST autobiography/memoir I have ever come across. It is insightful, thought provoking, sad, moving, touching and most of all extrememly funny. Written in the format of a series of letters to various important people in her life [most commonly Fatty aka Jennifer Saunders and Dawn's dad, whom she lost to suicide at 19] each letter contains snippets of various times in the life of Dawn French and a real insight into her relationship with each and everyone of the receivers of the letters. There are also a series of pictures from various stages of her life which are a lovely account of the life of an obviously very well loved lady. While it is undeniable that Dawn French can fill a theatre, stadium or front room with laughter what comes across most in this book is that she is a woman who loves. She loves life, acting, her friends, family but most of all her hubbie Lenny Henry and adopted daughter Billie, to whom she also dedicates a number of letters. This book is very hard to put down and very well though out.
Dawn French - the larger than life comedienne, one half of the duo French and Saunders and a regular on our TV screens since the early 1980's but how much did I actually know about this woman before I read her autobiography, Dear Fatty? - Very little indeed it would seem!
Well I knew that she was married to Lenny Henry and even I'm old enough to remember her early appearances in the Comic Strip, which hit our screens on the very first day that Channel 4 was launched on 2nd November 1982. I wasn't sure that she and Lenny were still together (they are) and I didn't know they had a teenage daughter. I knew she liked chocolate and I knew a few other trivial facts about her and I loved her in the Vicar of Dibley, but in fact I quickly discovered that there were a lot of things that I didn't know about Dawn French.
The book is written in the form of a series of letters to people that were important in her life. It begins "Dear Dad" and then flits between several other people ranging from her brother (Dear Gary) to her mum (Dear Mum) you get the idea I'm sure, but there are also letters to a few famous people too who have inspired her at different points of her life. I naively assumed that the "Dear Fatty" from the title was a reference to herself as I know she often pokes fun at her larger-than-average size, but how wrong was I - "Fatty" is actually the name she gives to her co-star Jennifer Saunders.
The style of writing is very easy to read and just as I hoped it is often funny but there are a lot of serious bits too. The format in the form of imaginary letters on the whole really works and seems to be a great way for her to express her thoughts. Most of the letters are quite short so this is an easy book to read in short snippets, although I read it between a couple of 4-hour flights.
We discover right at the very beginning that her father is no longer alive and that he died when he was quite young, but we are kept waiting for a very long time before we discover what actually happened to him. The letter in which we learn about his sad demise is perhaps the most emotional of them all and its written straight from the heart and very angry.
Dawn French can be hilariously funny not only in real life but also on paper too and more than once I found myself laughing out loud. There are however a few letters that seem rather pointless and a few to "Fatty" that seem to just be odd fictitious ramblings that seem to serve only to deliver a punch line.
What I quickly learned is that Dawn French seems to be a very level headed person who is extremely thankful for her success and the trappings that has brought but at the same time she often struggles to understand her fame. I'm not famous but I do have a friend who is quite well known so I can relate to this in a way as my friend's experiences are at times quite similar to Dawn's. My friend fully expects to be asked for autographs or photos when she is working or currently in the public eye, but it's more than a little annoying when you've gone out for a quiet meal or a drink with her and someone pulls a chair up to your table fully expecting that we want their company for the rest of the evening! My friend's always very polite as I'm sure Dawn French is too but it must be very annoying at times. Dawn's family is extremely important to her and if we believe what she writes nobody within her family treats her any differently as a result of her success and fame.
What we also learn about Dawn French is that she is quite a private person but not to the same extent of her hubby Lenny Henry who she describes as being obsessively private. They have taken some quite extreme and sometimes hilarious measures to protect the privacy of their daughter (disguises etc) in an attempt to keep her photos out of the press so that she can lead a normal life.
Overall I quite enjoyed this autobiography but there are a few dull bits where I nearly lost interest, but in the end I did feel that it was worth sticking it out. I'd mentioned earlier that when I started reading this book I wasn't sure if she was still married to Lenny Henry as I had read that he'd had an affair but it does seem that they have managed to weather the storm. Reference to Lenny succumbing to temptation is mentioned briefly, but like many things in this book it is very quickly brushed aside. I'm suppose that's the beauty of writing an autobiography - you are in control of what you decide to disclose.
384 pages (paperback)
Published - October 2008
This book isn't what I expected it's not so much about dawn French's life it's like reading her personal letters that have been kept over time. It takes a bit of getting used to but once you get used to the styles you see a good insight into her life. She never seems to directly talk about her life its more like she's asking questions from the people she knows such as do you remember when this or that happened. I think this is a great way of setting out a biography as Dawn has never been a conventional artist and I didn't expect a conventional book from her it's a lot like her work. This is a great book very different from any other I have read and thought that in the letters she keeps the reader gripped by hinting t things but never explaining anything in great depth. A great read.
I've always been quite a big fan of the BBC comedy television programme , The Vicar Of Dibley , and my favourite character was always Geraldine , the vicar. I thought Dawn French played the part so well , and since then I have always looked out for other programmes. I happened to hear that she had an autobiography out when I was flicking through a magazine which had all the latest book releases in it. I decided there and then that I just had to get this book.
For those of you who don't know , Dawn French is a British actress and comedienne , most famous for her role in The Vicar Of Dibley. She has also done some programmes and tours with Jennifer Saunders and is one half of the act 'French and Saunders'.
Dear Fatty (harsh name!!) is the name of Dawn French's autobiography released in 2009 by Arrow Books LTD. The book is three hundred and seventy four pages long and is available to buy from Amazon for a price of £3.86 which I think is a great price.
The book is written in a letter style ; which consists of Dawn writing letters to various people she knows or used to know. At first I thought this was quite a weird way for an autobiography , and at first I will admit that I was a little put off by the format. However after a couple of 'letter readings' , I was reassured and by the end of the book I actually thought that this was a really good way to set a autobiography , as it is interesting as well as being different.
Dawn doesn't really talk much about herself now , it's all about her memories with a lot of 'Do You Remember?' questions asked in the letters. Whilst reading this book , I could hear her voice in my head all the time and could imagine her acting it out , although I did think that the format of the book was quite unusual , it was more like you were reading a book of her talking to the people she has met/worked with in the past. It was quite personal , I know that sounds obvious , because autobiographies are always personal , but with this one , it was as though it wasn't her telling us her view on things , it was her telling us (as though the reader is the person she was talking to , such as family members) , if you get what I mean! hehe!
After reading this book , I became even more of a fan of French than I was before. She seems to warm-hearted and kind as well as coming across as really down to earth and genuine! She's also really funny and up for a laugh , which definately came across in the book. I found myself laughing out loud a few times when reading!
There are some great photos in this book , ones such as behind the scenes on her television programmes. I thought this was good because I don't think you ever see many pictures of her in magazines or newspapers and so it was nice , compared to the likes of Katie Price , who is in the media everyday and only adds mainly photos in her autobiography which you have already seen!
I think because French keeps herself out of the limelight , it's the reason I enjoyed this book so much , because everything I read was all new to me , unlike (sorry to refer to Katie Price once again) Jordan's autobiographies which contain everything you've seen on her reality television programe and all the stories which are in the media.
I would definately recommend this book to all Dawn French/comedy lovers.
Thanks for reading :)
November 27th 2009
xd-o-n-z-x (also posted on other review sites)
The concept behind this Autobiography from the wonderful Dawn French is unique in the way it is written.
Dawn French has written this book by way of letter to her nearest and dearest. The 'Dear Fatty' being comedy 'sidekick' Jennifer Saunders.
A large amount of her letters are written to her Father, who killed himself when Dawn was just 19 years old. The love and true admiration she holds for her Father is inspiring.
She is nothing but honest and open in this book. Normally i would approach any Celebrity Autobiography with a little caution, Always expecting some dirty laundry being aired and a desperate need for attention.
But with this book, I truely believe she is writing from the heart. And yes there are revelations, One in particular that sticks in my mind that amazed me and also surprised me that she dicussed it so openly in the book, But i say good on her.
I dont feel this book was done for the publicity it was because she wanted to tell a story of who she is and why she is the person we have come to know and love.
One of her letters that sticks in my mind is her letter to her adopted daughter Billie, It is beautiful and poetic and really shows you how much Dawns Father influenced her, even long after his sad death.
She never once came across in a way that made me feel pity for her, it was not a desperate attempt to be loved. It was just a beautiful way of veiwing her childhood, her career and her future with Lenny Henry.
What came across in this book to me, was exactly what i already thought of her already. She is well loved by friends and family and is a well rounded(no pun intended) Lady with her feet firmly on the ground.
Well that and that she has snogged a huge amount of very good looking Celebrities!! Grrrrrr
This book is great for anyone who is a fan or just likes a good read.
I am an avid reader and like to think I would give any book a try, however autobiographies are something that have never interested me. When 'Dear Fatty' was first published I barely noticed it. Recently I went shopping for a book for my holiday; I was sick of reading depressing gripping reality based novels and decided to go for something. Knowing Dawn French for comedy and having enjoyed watching her on TV I thought why the heck not...and thank God I did!
The way the book is written you can imagine Dawn French being sat right next to you saying to words. It's as though you can hear her smiles and laughs in the words as she recounts the events of her life. The book is written in a series of letters to people who have been involved in her life, predominantly her father. Look out for the letters to Madonna they genuinely had me laughing aloud and that's not the best thing at a quiet pool side! Never the less I absolutely adored this book. It has an easy atmosphere despite the fact that she sometimes deals with some very difficult issues and memories. For example she manages to laugh at the ignorance of those who have incited racial abuse towards her family. So easy does she deal with such issues that you forget the severity of them? There is something so personal yet easy going about this book that it leaves you feeling closer to Dawn French and wanting to invite her round for a cup of tea!
Excellent howling fun!
I've been a big fan of French and Saunders for years, when this book came out it was on my Christmas list straightaway. "Dear Fatty" is Dawn French's autobiography, however it is a little different to the usual autobiography formats, as each chapter is like a letter from her to someone else e.g. a friend, family member or celebrity. There are some really good bits in it, I personally related alot with her, having lived abroad myself, gone to boarding school and my father dying a few years ago. I did feel like the writing style was aimed more at women though, so maybe couldn't relate with certain parts of the book . I really didn't like the Dear Madonna chapters and eventually started missing them out. It also started feeling really heavy going after awhile, but then I'm not used to reading autobiographies, this the second one I've ever read. In conculsion like most autobrigraphes you have to be a really big fan to want to read about just one person's life, so it's only worth reading if your a massive fan of Dawn's.