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She snogged Richard Armitage, I'll have you know!
Dear Fatty - Dawn French
Member Name: Renza_e
Dear Fatty - Dawn French
Advantages: Funny lady, great anecdotes and stories and a superb outlook on life
Disadvantages: The tea invite is in the post. I will be waiting. That's all I'm saying...
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~*
Summary: Dawn French, I'm feeling glum, will you be my second mum?
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