I feel fortunate to live in the same lifetime as Marian Keyes, to get to witness her hilarious Tweets and eagerly await new releases.
Marian Keyes is one of the first authors I ever binged. I started by stealing my sister’s copies and then finally buying my own, once her bookcase was in a completely different country.
I honestly think Marian might be one of the best writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading. She manages to perfectly mix humour, emotion and important subjects. Her characters are unique and practically spring off the page. She never relies on overused conventions or tropes, instead she creates stories so real that I want to tell them to my friends.
So I tasked myself with an impossible challenge: to round up my five favourite books by Marian Keyes. She’s published over seventeen books in the last three decades, so this is no easy task, but I’m willing to try my best.
If I could recommend only one Marian Keyes book to people, it would be Grown Ups. If I could recommend only one book ever to people, it would be Grown Ups.
This book has an unnatural hold over me. I read it every single year, and I never fail to love it. I remember the first time I was a little overwhelmed by the number of characters (despite the handy family tree offered). But it’s remarkable how quickly you understand and empathise with all the characters, a sign of a truly exceptional author.
Among many things, this book approaches the difficult subject of eating disorders and does so with tact and care. It shows the brutal reality of suffering from an eating disorder without ever glorifying or fetishising it.
I love these characters more than I’ve ever loved characters before. I’d love a film adaptation, but I’m too attached to the original novel. I’ll keep rereading this book forever, and I beg you to give it a chance.
“They're a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together--birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they're a happy family. Johnny's wife, Jessie--who has the most money--insists on it.
Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .
Still, everything manages to stay under control--that is, until Ed's wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can't keep her thoughts or opinions to herself. One careless remark at Johnny's birthday party, with the entire family present, and Cara starts spilling all their secrets.
As everything unravels, each of the adults finds themselves wondering if it's--finally--the time to grow up.” - Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
Marian has an incredible knack for addressing tough topics with both care and humour. This is shown perfectly through Rachel’s Holiday, which follows the titular character as she is unwillingly admitted to rehab. The true strength of this novel lies in its unreliable character, and how we struggle to separate her perception from the truth. We’re gifted what could be an unlikeable character on paper, and yet she could just as well be our reflection in the mirror.
This is my favourite of the Walsh books, and I’ve heard the same from many others. Marian has spoken openly about her own struggles with addiction, and I think this allowed her to warmly approach this difficult topic and tear down the stereotypes.
“The fast lane is much too slow for Rachel Walsh. And Manhattan is the perfect place for a young Irish female to overdo everything. But Rachel's love of a good time is about to land her in the emergency room. It will also cost her a job and the boyfriend she adores.
When her loving family hustles her back home and checks her into Ireland's answer to the Betty Ford Clinic, Rachel is hopeful. Perhaps it will be lovely—spa treatments, celebrities, that kind of thing. Instead, she finds a lot of group therapy, which leads her, against her will, to some important self-knowledge. She will also find something that all women like herself fear: a man who might actually be good for her.” - Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
Given that Rachel Walsh is my favourite of the five sisters, it should come as no surprise that I was blooming excited about this novel. This is the first time that Marian has written a sequel to any of her novels.
Do you have to read Rachel’s Holiday before reading Again, Rachel? No, not at all. But I recommend it as it gives a greater context and is an excellent book.
I somehow managed to be fooled by the unreliable narrator all these years later, and it only makes me love Marian more. She is an absolute wizard with her characters. This novel is made perfect by the stark contrast of realisation and delusion that Rachel lives in. Plus, we get a lot of Hunky Luke, and I’ll never complain about that. I just miss the leather pants from the first book.
“Back in the long ago nineties, Rachel Walsh was a mess.
But a spell in rehab transformed everything. Life became very good, very quickly. These days, Rachel has love, family, a great job as an addiction counsellor, she even gardens. Her only bad habit is a fondness for expensive sneakers.
But with the sudden reappearance of a man she'd once loved, her life wobbles.
She'd thought she was settled. Fixed forever. Is she about to discover that no matter what our age, everything can change?
Is it time to think again, Rachel?” - Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes
This was the first Marian Keyes book that I ever read, and it quickly became my favourite book. I definitely read it a bit too young, but that’s what you get with older sisters. I loved this book because, at a young age, I already knew that I wanted to be a novelist more than anything else. I loved this sneak peek into the publishing world with the glamorous Jojo.
I think this novel taught me that there are many truths depending on who is telling the story. Each of the characters is the hero in their own story and perhaps a villain in someone else’s. I’ve always loved multiple narrators, and I think that really started with this book.
“Jojo Harvey is a dead ringer for Jessica Rabbit and the most ferocious literary agent in town. A former NYPD cop, she now lives in London making million-dollar book deals while trying to make partner at her firm . . . all the while sleeping with the boss man.
Lily Wright is an author who believes in karma, and is waiting for the sky to fall after stealing her former best friend's man. Though her first book failed to sell, her life turns upside down when her most recent book becomes a huge bestseller.
Gemma Hogan is an event designer extraordinaire, but her personal life is nonexistent after losing the love of her life and her best friend in one fell swoop. To make matters worse, her father has just left her mother. While taking care of her mother, she e-mails a close colleague about her frustrations, who in turn forwards the hilarious e-mails to a famous literary agent named Jojo Harvey, who just happens to represent her former friend, now enemy, Lily Wright. . . .” - The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes
The second Marian Keyes book that I ever read and another case of multiple narrators carried out excellently. This time, instead of book publishing, we get a glimpse into magazine publishing.
We get such a sharp contrast of characters as they go head-to-head throughout the novel. We get insight into their vulnerabilities and darkest secrets. It also addresses mental health really well, without scrambling for labels and stereotypes.
It’s a fun yet powerful book, perfect for reading by the pool or tucked away in the evening.
This Prada-wearing magazine editor thinks her life is over when her "fabulous" new job turns out to be a deportation to Dublin to launch Colleen magazine. The only saving grace is that her friends aren't there to witness her downward spiral. Might her new boss, the disheveled and moody Jack Devine, save her from a fate worse than hell?
Ashling, Colleen's assistant editor, is an award-winning worrier, increasingly aware that something fundamental is missing from her life -- apart from a boyfriend and a waistline.
Clodagh "Princess" Kelly
Ashling's best friend, Clodagh, lives the domestic dream in a suburban castle.So why, lately, has she had the recurring urge to kiss a frog -- or sleep with a frog, if truth be told?
As these three women search for love, success, and happiness, they will discover that if you let things simmer under the surface for too long, sooner or later they'll boil over.” - Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes
This was a difficult list, and it’s taking everything for me not to keep listing titles. I want to tell you all about Watermelon, her debut novel, or The Mystery of Mercy Close, which finally presents depression in a relatable way. But for now, I’ll leave you with this list of the best Marian Keyes books as a gateway to the rest of her work. Prepare to laugh and cry, and often do a mix of the two.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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