There are few things better than curling up with a good book, so I’ve decided to include more book reviews here for like-minded souls looking for their next good read. To kick things off, my first read of 2016, According to Yes, by Dawn French.
According to Yes, by Dawn French.
Did you know that Dawn French, the actor and comedian probably best known for her portrayal of the hilarious Vicar of Dibley, is also a writer of hilarious novels?
It’s true! I remember feeling utterly delighted to find that out and practically devouring her autobiography, Dear Fatty, to begin with. So when I was given her latest book, According to Yes, last Christmas by my lovely stepson, I wasted no time in reading it. Literally. I finished it over two days.
According to Yes is the story of Rosie Kitto, a vivacious Englishwoman who decides to throw caution to the wind and make the move to Manhattan, to take up a position as a nanny. Rosie’s life before this event is something we learn about in snippets as the story progresses. She was a teacher and loved children. Not having her own is a sore point for Rosie and part of the source of her unhappiness. In her late 30s, she decides to start saying yes far more often, meaning new experiences and stepping out of her comfort zone to make new connections and to change her life.
I have to add that Rosie is described as a curvy redhead who I couldn’t help picturing, and hearing, as the author herself. This didn’t detract from the story; if anything, it added to the charm for me.
Rosie arrives in New York and goes to meet Glenn Wilder-Bingham, the formidable matriarch of her well-to-do family. Rosie’s natural warmth and bubbly personality instantly clash with Glenn’s coldness straight off. The situation is unusual; Glenn’s two youngest grandsons will be Rosie’s charges while in the care of their father, Kemble, who is in the process of separating from their mother. Rosie wonders why she is needed; can their father not care for them? It soon becomes evident that he has a lot on his mind and isn’t terribly interested in spending time with his children.
She enthusiastically embraces the role of nanny to the two boys, rightly sensing their confusion and unhappiness. These were the parts I enjoyed most- her outings with them, the dialogue between them and the way she encouraged them be the uninhibited, slightly wild creatures that children should be- something they’d not experienced at Grandmother’s house before.
Rosie brings a level of warmth and humour otherwise unheard of in this home. Glenn rules with the roost and ensures that emotions, complaints and humour are quashed before they see the light of day, but Rosie decides she’s having none of that. Her interactions with the Wilder-Bingham men are a large focus of the story, with Rosie showing them that there is happiness and love to be found, despite Glenn’s harsh rule. The Wilder-Bingham men consist of the patriarch, Tom, his middle-aged son Kemble and grandson, 19 year old Teddy. These three seem to have been starved of emotional connection and humour until Rosie comes along.
Glenn resents Rosie, who isn’t oblivious to that fact, but has fully embraced her decision to say yes more often. In fact, she says yes to things that left me scratching my head.
This is where the book sort of fell down a bit for me. By that, I mean that I found the story to be pushing it when it came to being believable. The implausibility didn’t bother me much, because I’m all for a bit of escapism, but I can see it being a problem for readers who like things to stay realistic or want a character they feel they can fully identify with.
As we learn more of Rosie’s history, it becomes pretty clear that her move to New York was an effort to run from the pain in her past, but as we all know, that sort of thing catches up with you. She also finds that always saying yes, no matter how well intended, doesn’t always have a positive consequence for all involved.
If you can get past the slightly ridiculous antics of the main characters (I could) then you’ll enjoy this book, because you’ll see the overall message of the story, which is about changing our expectations and doing things we’d normally shy away from in an effort to find happiness, which may or may not present itself in the form we were expecting. Also, it’s a bloody good laugh- French’s irreverent humour is evident in nearly every page!
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