A big bit of loveliness.
The first novel by Dawn French, ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ tells the tale of a typical, if not slightly eccentric, modern British family. The book is centred on Mo Battle, a 49-year-old mum of two who feels that there’s some excitement missing from her life, something that she wants to reclaim. As the story develops we follow her through exploration and experimentation with the person that she has become, and the woman that she ends up being.
In addition to Mo, we also gain insights from her 17-year-old daughter, Dora, a typically stroppy and argumentative teen, whose personality French has captured perfectly! Every line from her is filled with teenage attitude, and I’m ashamed to say that she often reminded me of myself when I was her age… Lines such as “Mum is like a constant noise.” and Dora’s constant use of the colloquialisms ‘like’ and ‘so’ make you feel as though you’ve snuck into a teenagers’ room and are reading their diary. 16-year-old Peter (aka Oscar) is another character whose narrative we’re treated to on many occasions. An Oscar Wilde wannabe, he was undoubtedly my favourite character. His first chapter opens with: “The suffering of the last hour has been unutterably awful. Both of the Battle harridans, the monstrous mater and the dreadful daughter, have been shrieking sufficiently enough to wake as yet undiscovered molluscs at the pit-bottom of the ocean’s silty depths.” and that style of language continues throughout his chapters. He reminded me of a Stephen Fry-esque character; charming, amusing and incredibly English. Mo herself is a typical stressed-out mum, trying to keep her family under control whilst balancing her job as a psychologist. I enjoyed her character the majority of the time, but as the story progressed and she started becoming more selfish to her own needs, I didn’t like her as much. I couldn’t really understand her motives for doing what she did, and it didn’t really feel like the same character from the first few chapters.
Having three different narratives is not something that I’ve experienced in a book before, but I thought that it really worked. As well as providing us with Dora and Oscar’s retaliations to their mother’s behaviour, they also provide us with the chance to read about their experiences within their own lives: Dora’s struggles with her A-levels, preparing for her prom, wanting to audition for X Factor; and Peter’s ‘elite’ members school club, The Enchantings, and his desire to get a Saville Row suit, plus both of them trying to find themselves boyfriends… I liked that whilst both of the characters had their own personal problems, the book also touched upon more common issues such as the ups and downs of friendship.
From work stresses to family occasions, this novel just encompasses typical family life; and with there being three different characters’ narratives, you’re sure to be able to relate to this book in some way. It’s interesting to find a book that explores the same scenario from two, and sometimes three, different perspectives, and they provide you with insights that you wouldn’t otherwise get. There are some wonderfully funny moments and lines which will evoke memories of your own family; I know there were a fair few in there that reminded me of mine!
One of my criticisms of this book would be that it suffers from a lack of plot. It’s certainly not a boring read, but minus a supposed ‘big twist’ it’s more like three individual diaries comprised into one book. It’s still incredibly entertaining, but after reading the blurb I was expecting a lot more than what was actually delivered. The twist is a good one, and I definitely didn’t see it coming at first, but as it got closer to it being revealed it became incredibly obvious what it was. I would say that if you like books that have a really solid plot then this would be one to avoid.
This novel provides a warming read, one that you could easily sit and relax with for hours. It’s a lovely way to escape from your own family and read about the stresses and strains of another. Often it’s as though the characters are sat down next to you talking about their problems. It’s not a difficult read at all, it might just you take a little while to get your head around Oscar’s way of talking though! It’s comforting and friendly, a novel to make you smile. If you’re a fan of Dawn French then I think this is a definitely a book to go for. You’ll be left with no doubt in your mind about who this book written by. I’ve read French’s autobiography and the tone, sarcastic wit, and humour of her is infused into every page of this book – chapters of it could so easily be turned into a French and Saunders sketch.
I think French summed ‘A Tiny Bit Marvellous’ up perfectly when she said: “I hope it’s funny, I hope it’s a bit sad, a bit scary. It’s got a little bit of a twist that might surprise you.”