Autobiographies can be hit and miss affairs, can’t they? But in Dear Fatty, Dawn French uses a unique method for sharing her life story: each ‘chapter’ is really a letter to someone in her life, living or dead. It relates events from her life, opinions she holds and you get a sense of the warmth and affection from the comedienne that a more conventional writing style might not have portrayed.
Dear Fatty is also non-linear. Dawn jumps backwards and forwards, but tries to stay on track.
Anyway, I’m almost halfway through the book right now, and enjoying it immensely. There are points where you wish she’d stop trying to be so funny and just get on with it, but these are few and far between.
For the most part, I was shocked to discover Dawn was an army brat and grew up on bases all over the place, including Cyprus. She’s frank and forthright on family members, even the less desirable ones like her maternal grandmother. I’ve enjoyed reading about her exploits at boarding school, her boyfriends and friends. Every fourth chapter though is a gently mocking letter to Madonna, which helps break things up nicely, because she clearly doesn’t know Madonna in real life.
Quite a number of early chapters are addressed to her father, and interestingly none so much to her mother. The father-daughter bond seems to be quite strong, although she almost casually mentions in one chapter that he committed suicide. I don’t know whether it’s because she’s writing to her father in the present tense, but I felt the sting when I discovered he was dead. And at this point, I’m clamoring to know what happened, what drove her father to suicide?
Note: I decided to write this review as a reading diary. I tend to forget things I’ve enjoyed by the time I reach the end, so while parts of the book are fresh in my mind, it helps to write them down now. Don’t spoil the ending for me!