It seems to be a running theme these days that I pick a book that I’m either indifferent or have low expectations of. There also seems to be a running theme where I’m pleasantly surprised. Oh Dear Sylvia was no exception.
The beginning did drag a little. I suppose it could symbolise Sylvia’s vegetative state, but it doesn’t make good reading. Once I got into it (which was about a third of the way through) I was hooked. The perspectives are interesting and the plot was intriguing, and there were many twists- some were predictable, but others were a complete surprise. My opinions on characters were changing constantly throughout the story and it was fascinating to see such a diverse range of characters.
What made this book stand out to me was the fact that the protagonist played no role in the actual story, but somehow the plot seemed to revolve around her regardless. We learn about Sylvia from the perspectives of the visitors that come to see her, including her ex husband, her friend-turned-lover, her sister and her maid. It goes to show how they all have different versions of the same person based on their memories, and it’s a very good reflection on real life. It almost reminds me of high school in the sense that everyone had a different twist on the same tale, to the point where sometimes it’s blown completely out of proportion, and it further highlights the perception of character.
There was an underlying mystery to this story, and it was evident from the start that her fall was more than just an accident, however as the characters’ backstories were uncovered it was evident who was behind it. It was also nice to see closure for some of the characters as well who suffered from the hands of Sylvia (even though we later learn this was through no fault of her own). It’s easy to hate Sylvia at the start as one may feel sympathetic for Ed and her kids. However, the fact that the change in character seems so unnatural based on Ed’s marriage, makes the eventual revelation seem almost forced and again, unnatural.
I did like the fact that there was a good representation of characters, and it was evident that research was done into different cultures in order to execute this diversity well. I think it’s important that we continue to see this kind of diversity in all fiction.
Overall, I liked it. It’s funny and interesting and somehow manages to be lighthearted yet also thought provoking, addressing a variety of issues.
If you’ve read it feel free to share your thoughts!