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Daily Dawn

Book Review
Me – You: A Diary
by Dawn French (Penguin Random House $45)
Reviewed by Wendy Montrose

french_mediary_webcoverI have to confess to a possible bias here. I’m a fan. The Vicar of Dibley is one of my favourite TV shows and this is classic Geraldine Granger. It makes me think that who we saw in the series was the real Dawn French.

This book is the real Dawn French, it invites the reader into her life, to share the private moments. It’s more an interactive autobiography, than a diary with each month preceded by Dawn’s take on the season and anecdotes about her life and family. She talks about her marriages and her children, her parents and her childhood; she tells us how she was shaped into the person she is now, how she views ageing and how she is making peace with herself:

“I started like a lot of us, as a baby. A red-spotted lump of a baby, with scarlet fever, apparently. My two year old brother thought Mum had given birth to a giant screaming strawberry. It was a lengthy, complicated birth, Mum liked to remind me. She also wanted me to know that in those days of poor dental care, little info about calcium and no fluoride in the water, she donated her top teeth to my bro, and her bottom teeth to me.”

There is a smattering of photographs from her family album, and some clever illustrations by Chris Burke, a notable London cartoonist and caricaturist. There is room for the diarist to write in appointments or thoughts, and Dawn has included lists of ‘silliness’ like ‘Would be Valentines’ and ‘some thinking’ like ‘Good Questions to Ask and Answer’, and she provides places for the reader to join her. It’s a fun way to keep a diary.

Dawn is best known in New Zealand for TV shows French and Saunders and The Vicar of Dibley, but her career spans much more: numerous television, movie and theatre roles and, who knew she is also a novelist? Her first three novels, A Tiny Bit Marvellous, Oh Dear Sylvia and According to YES are all Sunday Times bestsellers.

As a northern hemisphere year, the seasons in this diary don’t match up with ours but the reader is likely to dip in and sample Dawn’s writings a morsel at a time so that won’t really matter. It is a delightful read. It’s like getting two for the price of one and as Dawn says, it’s a guilt free zone, you can’t get it wrong. And at the end of the year, you’ll feel as though you have found a new friend.