Title: Dear Fatty
Author: Dawn French
Publisher: Arrow Books, 2009 (366 pages)
I was always a fan of Dawn French’s work – both in her roles in film and television such as The Vicar of Dibley and with her long-time comedy partner Jennifer Saunders (the “Fatty” of the title). After reading these funny, warm and personal memoirs, she now seems like one of the few celebs I could imagine inviting over for a cuppa or glass of plonk, a packet of Tim-Tams and a natter without cleaning up. You know – those friends that can show up at a moment’s notice and you don’t panic about the breakfast dishes in the sink, the sticky kitchen floor and the cat hair on the good lounge. I’d be too busy laughing to feel slack, and I like to think she’d be kind enough to overlook such things.
When French addresses her readers in the opening chapter of Dear Fatty, it is obvious this is not going to be a stock-standard celebrity autobiography. With each chapter a letter addressed to a specific person in her life, French maintains a vague chronological order of the memorable times of her life, but avoids all the boring explanation in-between. Fans of Dawn’s comedy will be delighted with the humour with which she approaches almost all subjects – from teen embarrassments to teaching to stardom. I really did laugh out loud. And yet there is a beautiful honesty as well, particularly in the chapters written to her father (who died when she was just 19) and her husband, Lenny Henry, that makes you feel like you know her personally.
Which is probably why I can picture Dawn French in my lounge room. I’m imagining Catherine Zeta-Jones there too, because I think they kind of look alike, and I like to think she’d bring a few extra bottles of a good cab sav and have the best Hollywood gossip to share. The three of us could be gal pals. Oh dear, slipped into fantasy there… and some women fantasize about Brad Pitt…by