Where to start reading Marian Keyes


One of the most successful Irish authors of all time and queen of contemporary fiction, Marian Keyes is a force to be reckoned with. She’s written 14 novels, published three collections of her journalism, written a cookbook, and won the Irish Book Awards - twice.

Her books are almost universally about people you want to be friends with: even as they go through incredibly difficult things they’re wry, bright, and you can’t help but cheer for them. There are also more serious topics tackled in her novels. It's not often you’d describe a book about going to rehab, the death of your husband or living with debilitating depression as ‘heartwarming’, but Keyes manages it again and again.

This combination of heft and heart has made her one of the most beloved and popular authors writing today, and it’s no wonder that everyone is currently talking about her latest novel, Grown Ups, which came out earlier this month and immediately became a Sunday Times Bestseller.

If you’re not read any Marian Keyes before it can be daunting to know where to begin. Here’s what we recommend.

Watermelon ( 1995)

We start at the beginning, with the first novel Keyes ever wrote. It’s about Claire Walsh, whose husband James leaves her for another woman the day she gives birth. Claire is forced to move back in with her parents while she works out what to do next, how to look after a baby, and what she should do when James comes back into her life. 

It also marks the beginning of a series of five novels all about each Walsh sister – and they’re all a delight. Seeing the sisters through each other’s eyes is oddly thrilling and the Walsh family are so beloved that Keyes wrote a short encyclopaedia of them to sate the appetites of their fans. Read them all in one go or save them between reading other books, either way you’ve got a treat in store.

Sushi for Beginners (2000)

Next, we have something completely different. Lisa is deputy editor of a magazine in London whose life is pulled from underneath her when she’s told to move to Dublin and launch a brand new women's magazine. Sushi for Beginners follows Lisa, neurotic writer Ashling and Ashling’s best friend, stay-at-home mother Clodgah, in the months up to the magazine’s launch as they all try to figure out what’s missing in their apparently enviable lives. 

So much of the humour in Keyes’s novels comes from the outrageous characters, but she’s adept at making you empathise with them even while you’re laughing and this book is the perfect example.


Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (1996)

After several books set in Ireland, it’s time for a quick stop in London. Lucy Sullivan visits a fortune teller with her friends, and is told there's marriage in her future. Initially dubious, when the predictions for her friends all start to come true Lucy decides to take things a little more seriously and find her Mr. Right. Cue plenty of dates, a string of disasters, a long list of potential husbands and a very gripping read. 

Keyes herself describes this as one of her favourites: ‘I wanted to write about a single girl in London who goes out with eejit after eejit, you know, because that was really the life I had led’ - something most of us can relate to.


This Charming Man (2008)

Although all of Keyes’s books make for a powerful reading experience This Charming Man has a certain severity tackling subjects still reflected in today’s headlines. of her novels and a story that is still reflected in today’s headlines. It is the story of a charismatic politician and the women he has abused.

It’s frankness and unflinching look at domestic abuse is at times hard to read, but the kindness with which the book is written makes it truly special. Readers clearly agree: the Irish public voted for the novel to win the Popular Fiction Award at the 2009 Irish Book Awards.

This Duvet (2001)

Once you have a flavour of the novels, you’ll probably be curious about the woman behind these incredible stories, and reading through collections of her journalism is a good place to start with Under the Duvet being the first. 

Her 200,000 Twitter followers will attest to the fact that Keyes is charming and compelling whether she’s talking about feminism, Strictly Come Dancing, or what the weather is doing to next door’s bins, and Under The Duvet is covers similar musings. Funny and poignant, it's a wonderful thing to dip in and out of when you need to escape reality for a while.


The Break (2017)

Having read about Keyes and her husband Tony, aka ‘Himself’, you’ll be better placed to read The Break - a musing on long-term relationships. Amy and Hugh are in their 40s when Hugh declares he wants a six-month break from their marriage so that he can go around south-east Asia and possibly sleep with other women. The foundations that Amy has built her life on are thoroughly shaken and the rest of the novel follows the crisis she has a result. 

So many of Keyes’s books deal with young women and their lives because that’s where she was when she was writing them, but The Break feels like it's a novel that's growing up with her – and all the better for it.


Grown Ups (2020)

To finish, we have the latest Keyes’s novel. Grown Ups is about the three Casey brothers, their wives and their children all spend a lot of time together, and on the surface everything seems to be wonderful. But when Cara, one of the brother’s wives, gets concussion and starts spilling family secrets at a birthday party, everyone realises that their ideal family isn’t as perfect as they’ve all been pretending it is. 

Grown Ups combines all of the standout elements of Keyes’s books so far with her trademark lightness of touch and unwillingness to look away from the more unpleasant aspects of life.

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