A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French is Dawn’s first attempt at fiction after her hugely successful autobiographical book Dear Fatty.
Written in the form of a dairy we are introduced to the Battle family: Mo about to turn 50 years old, a child psychologist who doesn’t understand her own children; Dora about to turn 18 years old, who is very strong willed – yet lacks confidence in herself; Peter the baby of the family who has a strange obsession with Oscar Wilde; Dad…who’s just dad and Poo their dog.
In the first few chapters we learn more about the family. Mo, it seems is noticing her age. She feels that she has a dull, grey, boring life and has a poor relationship with her children. The trouble is that she doesn’t understand them. Speaking to Dora seems to always lead to an argument and Peter is simply obsessed with Oscar Wilde. To make matters worse she barely speaks to her husband these days, let alone have any quality time together. She begins to wonder if in need she still loves him.
Dora on the other hand uses the term “like” an awful lot, so much so that she does seem fictional. Dora hates Mo with a passion, as she doesn’t get her. Dora has big dreams but is not sure how to achieve them.
Peter aka Oscar Wilde actually thinks he is Oscar at times and this makes for hilarious reading. He is the stereo typical geek, having his own private club with his friends at school. The password for entry to the club meetings is usually sometime academic. Despite his eccentricity you do come to love Peter and find that he is young, exploring his sexuality – being attracted to men rather than women.
Then Noel comes into Mo’s life. A mature student studying to become a child psychologist Mo is shocked to discovered that he is attracted to her. Mo, attracted to the excitement and attention of a younger man begins to explore this potential relationship. However at the same time, Peter also likes him. Peter persuades Mo to allow him to have therapy with Neol around his Oscar Wilde fixation. However when Peter attempts to kiss Noel, therapy is abruptly ended by a jealous Mo.
Meanwhile Dora has met someone online who “gets her.” The book continues to reveal the story and from this point your hooked. As the book comes towards the end it is revealed that Noel never liked Mo at all. He used her to try and get close to Dora. Dad steps in and plays hero, fights Noel and banishes him back from where he came.
The story is well written and the twist at the end is unpredictable. The characters write their diaries in their own voice and feel real. However for me there was too much emphasis on Mo and Dora’s relationship, poor Dad the hero of the story isn’t even given a name. This is not surprising as Dawn often talks in interviews about her relationship with her daughter and you know what they say – write what you know.
On a personal level though, it was nice to see Peter aka Oscar get together with one of his friends who’d always liked him towards the end.
Over all it has some laughs in it and is a good first novel. Dawn engages you well and you become fascinated by the different characters perception of events.