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I'm a grad student, an avid reader, a huge nerd, fervent roleplayer, wife, cat lover, tea snob, and obsessive keeper of lists.
A Tiny Bit Marvellous - Dawn French English family life in the key of shrill.


This book seems to take as its premise that not only are teenagers constantly (and I mean constantly) at a fever pitch of screaming and hating their parents, but also that that emotional lability (screw you, Goodreads, that is too a word) and immaturity and utter lack of self-awareness continues through everyone's entire lives.

Because not only is Dora shrill and screaming and unbearable and a little prat (teenagers are supposed to be, but this book is akin to sitting next to one you're unrelated to screaming on the phone for three hours), so is her mother. Mo has about the same level of maturity as Dora, and thinks things through about as well, and oh my god, they are both such unpleasant idiots to be around!

And Oscar isn't really any better. Insufferable, pompous and self-absorbed. Why would I want to spend any time with these twits, anyway?

Dawn French appears to be trying to do her best Sue Townsend impression, but without of any of the wit or insight or deft touch that Townsend brings to Adrian Mole. This is just shrill. It's just unpleasant. And then, at the end, it hinges on the stupidest of contrived contrivances, and then goes straight for attempted heart-wrenching, without having earned it one jot.

Even worse, I'm reading this at the same time I'm reading The Casual Vacancy (and it's really very good, you guys), and that is showing off how false and fake and, yes, shrill A Tiny Bit Marvellous is. (I need to find another word than shrill, but it fits the book so well!) The Casual Vacancy has a couple of superficially similar characters, but isn't over-the-top, isn't trying to show how clever it is, and every moment in J.K. Rowling's first adult novel rings truer and sadder and more insightful than this.

Skip this one. Just do it. Your literary eardrums will thank me.