In coma suite number 5 a broken life is pieced together
Author: Dawn French
Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd.
”You have no idea what you did to us. You broke us, Silv. We splitered off in so many ways. It’s still bad now. Sometimes.”
What did Silv do? Who is Silv in fact? What is her story? These are questions with no answers in the first chapters.
Funny, heart-warming and heartbreaking in turns, this was a very good read. Oh Dear Silvia was a truly unique novel. I’ve never before read a book in which the central protagonist doesn’t speak, or hold any communication with another person, as they lie comatose. It’s a brilliant scenario, and one that Dawn French executes with success.
The story made me ask myself how would I react in such a situation? What if a dear person of mine was in coma for a long period of time? What would I say to them, what would I do to help them come back to life?
Dawn French creates a mixture of incredibly vivid and colorful characters, through which the novel is played out. Each character- family member or friend, visits her at the hospital, sharing to us their point of view over Silvia's life. It is clear that each visitor has a different take on the woman lying in a coma, and you never quite know which Silvia, or which visitor’s account, to trust. Mediated through the eyes of others, Silvia’s life becomes a complicated, messy, enigmatic affair, and for once in her life Silvia can't talk back.
This is a family cast adrift and it takes Silvia's coma and the one-sided talks for the family and friends to finally rediscover and redefine Silvia and themselves.
I had mixed feelings about the story. At first, I was curious to find out more about Silvia’s personality. Then, only reading the other’s point of view about her, it made me ask myself what about her opinion, is she ever going to tell her side of the story? But at the end I realized that what I enjoyed the most were the characters, and without them the novel wouldn’t be so captivating.
Offering some stability as the boat rocks and rolls over the stormy seas of Silvia's life, is the inimitable Winnie, the Jamaican nurse, and to read her dialect out loud (often hard to understand) makes you feel the warmth of her personality. By far my favorite character is Winnie. Whatever she has going on in her own life, she goes out of her way to care for and protect Silvia. She is the type of nurse that you rarely see nowadays, she knows how to treat the patients: she sings to them, she talks to them, she touches them, and she treats them as if they were just taking a longer nap, not as being in a long coma.
Believe it or not, the novel is full of humor by Dawn creating characters like Tia or Minnie. Just remember that the author is a comedian by definition, being known for starring in and writing for the comedy sketch show French and Saunders>/i> with comedy partner Jennifer Saunders.
I don't want to give away the ending but it is beautifully done. I was moved and I often think about the book and that is, in my opinion, what a good story should do to the reader.
Well written, easy to follow, nice and funny characters.
For those who like family stories.