Friday, December 05, 2008

Two Smart Girls.
‘Fern – my story’ by Fern Britton.

‘Dear Fatty’ by Dawn French

I have just read these two books in tandem; partly to see how other people tackled their auto biography – yes I realise they are famous and I am not – but also because I fancied some human interest reading after a long difficult book. They are both very much in the public eye – Fern as a presenter on ‘This Morning’ on ITV and Dawn as a comic actress; they are successful and very popular.

They have quite a lot in common: in their early fifties and not too worried about any weight issues; Dawn describes herself as ‘ almost entirely spherical’ and has always used her shape to great comic effect in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ and the hilarious sketches she has done with her partner Jennifer Saunders. Jennifer is the ‘Dear Fatty’ in the title.

Fern has always been curvaceous and after giving birth to four children has found it increasingly difficult to get back in shape: she recently was pilloried by some of the press for having a gastric band fitted although it had been done as a surgical procedure on medical advice, to protect her general health. They both have strong links with Cornwall and trained at The Central School for Speech and Drama They both have been through the rigours of IVF.

Fern was trapped with three children in an unhappy marriage and suffered severe bouts of depression and Dawn had to cope with the loss of her much loved father who committed suicide when she was a teenager. Fern’s father was Tony Britton the actor who left the family home and who she didn’t get to know until she was about fourteen.

One would have thought they could be good friends but Fern interviewed Lenny Henry- the actor / comedian who is Dawn’s husband, and asked him about his stay in the Priory which he felt was inappropriate; Dawn fiercely loyal, has said – according to Fern - that she will never appear on ‘This Morning’ whilst Fern is there.

Both books are illustrated with many photos and I found both to be interesting and illuminating. Fern tells her story in the conventional way with occasional up - dates in italics and Dawn writes a series of letters to her loved ones – and she has many – but especially to her father to bring him up to speed with her life as it is now. She and Lenny have a teen- age daughter Billy.

I found both women to be good company, funny with admirable grit and determination and the good thing is they have both come through trials and tribulation and – with their families ( Fern is now married to Phil Vickery the chef) are as happy as one can expect to be in today’s world. I commend them.

In contrast I am in the middle of a spiffing book – a first novel – a psychological thriller, which I don’t want to end: ‘Out of a Clear Sky’ by Sally Hinchcliffe.
More later.


Eryl Shields said...

I love stories about strong women who defy convention, we don't get enough of them. I can understand Dawn's loyalty to her husband, but on the other hand, people these days seem to talk about their most intimate issues in public so how was Fern to know he wouldn't want to?

Don't let your lack of fame stop you Pat, you certainly have a fascinating story to tell, keep up the good work.

Z said...

I don't think that Fern Britton would have been criticised in the way she was if she hadn't taken part in diet advertisements and said it was exercise and healthy eating that had lost the weight. She deliberately misled people, even if she didn't actually lie.

I didn't know she'd lost weight, since I hadn't seen her on TV, until she was 'outed' - I suspect that if she'd come clean from the outset it wouldn't have been so widely reported that she'd had a gastric band.

PI said...

Z: there is a whole page at the end of the book explaining this - too long for me to quote here- but having read the whole book I certainly don't believe she deserves to be pilloried.

Eryl: there are some people with whom you instinctively know you have to tread carefully I think. For instance my attitude to political correctness - dating back to the thirties - would probably not go down a storm with Dawn and Lenny, and in spite of their pulic personas they are intensely private people. The price you have to pay for fame eh?
Fern's roots are in journalism so she would think she was doing her job and can't grumble when it is done to her.

Kath said...

I adore reading biographies! I'm an avid reader anyway, but getting into someone else's life (with their permission, of course!) is incredibly interesting. And thanks for the Hinchcliffe recommendation, I'll be looking into that one!
Speaking of, even though it's classified, I guess, as teen lit, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer is really great - I didn't know anything about them, started reading and couldn't stop!

The Manic Street Preacher said...

Just finished Jerry Lewis's book about his partnership with Dean Martin 'Dean and Me'. Very good.

Michael Brunson - the political reporter is my next one.

Love autobiographies.

Nothing has ever bettered David Niven's The Moon's A Balloon though.

Z said...

I'm not bothered one way or the other - good luck to her. But I can appreciate the people, who had felt inspired and encouraged by her, feeling let down once they knew she hadn't lost weight by dieting. I've had lots of friends congratulate me on losing weight and asking me how I've done it - "eat less, move more" I've said (and I've lost less than a third of what Fern did). If they found out through a third party that I'd had a gastric band, which I haven't, they wouldn't trust me to tell the truth again.

PI said...

Z: well done! I know how difficult it is.

KATH: I hope you enjoy it. I've just discovered her. Life is so much easier with a good book to turn to.

Manic: at one time I read nothing else, but am enjoying certain fictions now. Niven's is a classic.

Nea said...

Am going to add Niven and Hinchcliffe to my list of books I want to read. I've got a pile of eleven waiting to be read next to my bed, but my eyes won't stay open. Hopefully once the Christmas holidays start in two weeeks, I'll have time to read a few of them.

PI said...

Nea : I'm so enjoying Sally Hinchcliffe and I was in touch with her before I read the book; she is a kind and generous person, and a brilliant writer.

granny p said...

Both books would have been ghosted...yours is the real thing. Good. (Only thing; you probably have to admit more than you want to. Not so good.)

PI said...

Granny.P: I did wonder about that but both seem such opinionated people I thought they wouldn't readily hand it over to someone else. They wouldn't have had an easy ride I suspect.
As for admitting more than I want to - like Scarlett - I'll think about that tomorrow:)

Dandelion said...

Why doesn't she just apologise to the Henry-Frenches? She is such a lovely person I can't believe she'd have meant to cause offense.

PI said...

Dandelion: I suspect it's a clash of personalities. If you agree to be interviewed you can always say if there are any no- go areas otherwise mere self publicising gets tedious.