A Tiny Bit Marvellous is a debut novel by Dawn French. Quick background – Dawn French is a writer, comedian, producer and director of many things on screen. My first memory of her was the TV hit series French and Saunders. It was a 30 minute show featuring the comedy duo with some great sketches, both super talented.
I’d never picked up a book by Dawn French so when I saw this title at a charity book stall, I scooped it up along with a few other titles.
The book is centered on 5 characters belonging to the Battle family:
– Mo (the protagonist)
– Dora (Mo’s teenage daughter)
– Oscar (Mo’s teenage son who has assumed the identity of Oscar Wilde)
– The Pater (reference to Mo’s husband throughout the book, as Oscar calls him)
– Pamela (Mo’s mother)
The story is about the ‘Battle’ family dealing with their personal demons and causing havoc to each other in the process. It resonates with today’s issues around dysfunctional families i.e. growing teenagers, mid-life crisis, that missing spark in a relationship. The mother of the family, Mo, is nearing her 50th birthday but feels she is loosing control and direction in her own life. Her daughter Dora is on the cusp of her 18th birthday and hates her mum! Oscar (real name Peter) loves both his parents and Dora but his identity crisis is a real challenge for Mo. And then her husband, a man who loves Mo and his family but floats mysteriously through the other characters. I won’t give too much away on this book.
My review on the book
I instantly liked the style of this book. Each chapter is narrated by a different voice, the voice of the characters. But what the author has done is give that voice it’s own personality. When Mo speaks, you know it’s the voice of a woman who has the world on her shoulders trying to rip free. When Dora speaks, she is that teenage girl fighting against the world and her mum, her language speaks those frustrations. Peter, assuming his new personality brings about his poetic and posh sense of speaking. To tell the truth I liked the style so much that I am adopting it for a second book which I have started outlining this month.
The book provides a good reflection on the challenges of raising a family, however it has connotations of middle-class upbringing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but you can guess the narrative would be different.
You can sense the frustrations of the characters without knowing their backstory. But what I liked the most is the portrayal of Pamela, Mo’s mother as a beacon of hope and reason. Too often we forget the pivotal role grandparents can play in our lives, if only we listen.
I say, go pick up this book and have a read.