I love Dawn French as a comedian and actor, so I was happy to pick up some of her writing – it seemed a fair bet I’d enjoy a novel by such a legend as much as I enjoy everything else she does. (Fun fact: she and I went to the same university; she did the precursor to the degree I have! #massivelytenuousclaimtofame…)
I wasn’t wrong. I really enjoyed According to Yes, and the same risqué sense of humour shines through her fiction writing as it does her acting and public speaking. Following the protagonist, Rosie, from Cornwall to New York after a big old sadness happens to her, the narrative looks at how people process sadness in different ways – all through a massive sense of humour. Let me clarify – it’s not a sad book, but there is a definite pathos to it that makes it more than a fluffy ‘beach-read’ (another phrase I hate – what’s wrong with reading on the beach?! Or reading funny books? Or books about love lives?! Nothing, that’s what).
Without wanting to give too much away, there was a moment, about two-thirds of the way through, when I wondered if Rosie was going to see any return on some of her choices – although I don’t appreciate prescriptive moralism, when a character makes choices which are surprising, unpredictable, or outside of the ‘norm’, it’s only fair to address this in the story – but I wasn’t disappointed. It all comes to a very satisfying crux, and with a pleasing amount of drama which only requires the smallest amount of suspension of disbelief. On a related note: have you ever had that thing where a book makes you cringe so hard, you try to read it with your eyes closed? I have.
The most obvious theme of the book, though, is open-mindedness: or, as the blurb puts it:
After a lifetime of saying no, what happens when everyone starts saying… yes?
I love how, unlike some well meaning self-help books, French’s novel doesn’t suggest that accepting all opportunities and possibilities in one’s life will only ever turn out hearts and roses… hence the aforementioned cringe moments! It’s a fictionalised (i.e.: some suspension of disbelief required) exploration of what can happen to people if they work on having a ‘yes’ attitude rather than a ‘no’ attitude – including the not-so-fun stuff – and for that I think it’s lovely. I would absolutely say yes to reading this again. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…!)