Silvia lies in a coma. Estranged from her children and grandchild, she has managed to shut herself off from almost everyone who ever cared about her. Her only friend is Cat, an Irish GP who she met when they were both at problematic stages of their lives. The women have formed an inextricable bond; one that Silvia’s family disagree with. As time goes on, we come to understand the perspectives of each of the people involved in Silvia’s complex life, and gradually uncover the dark secret that binds it all together.
Poignant, moving and often hilarious, this is exactly what you’d expect from Dawn French. As a huge fan of her as a human being, even more than of her comedy, I was pleased to discover the intimacy and empathy that went into so touching a story.
Each of the characters is believable, and I think everyone will find someone to relate to in the story. For me, oddly enough, it was Silvia, despite her being the only one who’s unconscious. There’s something for everyone here, though: the caring and wonderful nurse who devotes all her time to other people; the crazy but well-meaning hippy sister; the pragmatic yet deeply hurt daughter who tries to hold it all together for the sake of everyone else. And then, of course, there’s Cat. But you’ll have to read the book to get to know her.
It also brings up big questions about us as people: how quick we are to judge, and how angry we can get with very little evidence to support our assumptions. When people around us start acting out of turn, are we sympathetic? Do we try to understand what could be making them so fractious? Or do we simply assume that we know what’s going on, blame it all on someone else and move on with our lives?
It’s a fantastic book. It’ll have you laughing out loud (on the underground, like a crazy person) and might even make you shed a tear. Definitely worth a read.