Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine

 Madame Doubtfire  cover

Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine was first published in 1987 and I can’t remember where I got our copy from (I think it was Jack who bought it) but it’s signed by the author. This is of course the book which inspired the film Mrs Doubtfire which starred the talented and much missed Robin Williams.

It’s a long time since I watched the film but I think the book is a bit more serious than the film was, but no doubt a comedy was better for the box office.

Daniel is a father of three children and he and his wife are recently divorced, but that hasn’t stopped the animosity, in fact things are getting worse between him and his ex-wife. He’s an out of work actor, living in a town which only has one theatre, so he has very little opportunity to find stage work. His ex-wife Miranda has a very well paid job and it’s because of her work that they’re living in the small town instead of London where Daniel would have a better chance of finding work.

Miranda is determined to keep Daniel away from the children as much as possible, and constantly flouts the judicial access agreement despite the fact that she really needs help with the children. When Miranda decides that she’s going to get a nanny/housekeeper Daniel decides to use his acting skills to pose as an elderly lady and applies for the job. Madame Doubtfire is definitely a one off, but the children very quickly realise who she is but they miss their father so are happy to play along with the situation. So begins a sort of double life for them all, duping Miranda who it seems is having to work such long hours and is always dashing off, she never really pays much attention to anyone.

This was a good read, the first that I’ve read by Anne Fine. It’s probably aimed at children of about 12 but is entertaining for any age. In the film Mrs Doubtfire is Scottish which I think worked really well but Anne Fine didn’t write her as a Scot, it was probably Robin Williams’s idea to do that. However Fine did live in Scotland for a while and I recalled that she got the name of Doubtfire when she spotted it painted above a shop in Edinburgh. You can read about it here.

Sadly this was before my Stockbridge visiting days as I would have loved to have a rake around that shop, if I could have withstood the cat pee smell!

From the Guardian

In this Saturday’s Guardian Review section the author of Madame Doubtfire, Anne Fine, talks about her hero Robin Williams, you can read the article here.

Elsewhere, in the Guardian Weekend magazine there’s an article by the author Esther Freud. I haven’t read anything by her and after reading the article I doubt if I ever will. Her new book is called Mac and Me and the ‘Mac’ is actually Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I can’t help thinking that this book must have been put together in tearing haste to take advantage of Mackintosh having been in the news recently.

Freud briefly owned a cottage in Suffolk which she discovered had been an inn which Mackintosh had stayed in at some point, talk about tenuous links!

I have no idea what Esther Freud’s writing is like but given that she states towards the end of the Guardian article that the Glasgow School of Art was Mackintosh’s one and only project, I certainly don’t think anything of her research skills. Mackintosh may not have been a prolific architect but he definitely designed more than one building. There’s the Scotland Street School in Glasgow and Hill House in Helensburgh as well as a few houses in England and of course House for an Art Lover was built posthumously in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park.

Such glaring mistakes make me wonder if Freud’s success in writing is solely because of that name ‘Freud’ with so many well known Freud relatives it certainly can’t be a disadvantage anyway. Not so much standing on the shoulders of giants as scrambling up the ankles of your ancestors. It makes me wonder why her editor didn’t point out just how wrong she was or do the editors at Bloomsbury not actually do any editing?