Dawn French’s memoir Dear Fatty was one of the treats Michelle brought back in her suitcase for me when she returned from England. We’re both fans of The Vicar of Dibley series, which French starred in a few years back. (And we’re both more than a little jealous that she got to snog* Richard Armitage in the finale. Sorry for the gratuitous Richard pic; I couldn’t resist.)
I’ve seen her in various YouTube clips of interviews, and she’s as hilarious in real life as she was on the show. I was very curious to see if her humor and vivaciousness would translate onto the page. I needn’t have worried.
Dear Fatty is a memoir in epistolary form. There are letters to all the important people in Ms. French’s life: mother, father, daughter, comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, best friend, old boyfriend. Oh, and Madonna, David Cassidy, and George Clooney.
Through the letters the reader gets the story of her life: growing up and moving around to different bases because her father was in the RAF; her very different grandmothers; her relationship with her brother; her father’s suicide when she was 19; her college years and discovering her talent for comedy; her marriage to Lenny Bruce.
The letter form means that the memoir isn’t exactly chronological, but that didn’t stop me from getting a vivid picture of her family and her world. The humor was often outrageous and had me in near hysterics, wishing it wasn’t too late at night (I read most of it during readathon) to call Michelle and read her a passage. There is more than just humor here, however; Ms. French writes openly and heart-breakingly of her grief over her father’s death, the downside of living in the public eye, and the struggles of marriage.
When I closed Dear Fatty, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend.
*For my mom and anyone else not familiar with British slang, that’s not as dirty as it sounds. Snog means kiss.