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, so it’s no wonder that she's written the most exciting sequel of the year:
Again, Rachel, which picks up with the titular star of 25 years later. Rachel's Holiday
Overwhelmed as to where to begin? Read on:
(1997) Rachel's Holiday
Keeping things in the Walsh family, we move onto the second book to feature them:
Rachel's Holiday. This is classic Keyes: presenting deceptively heavy issues beneath an irresistably humourous gloss. Rachel Walsh has a jet-set lifestyle that seems aspirational: glamorous parties and a boyfriend who loves her. But when her sister sends her to rehab, the fact Rachel views it as a holiday suggests there's deeper issues at bay. Keyes drew on her own experience of alcohol addiction and rehabilitation to write this much-loved novel, imbuing it with a humanity that would come to define her work.
(2022) Again, Rachel
Because we guarantee that after reading
Rachel's Holiday, you'll be desperate to find out what happens next. Join the masses of readers who have been clamouring to find out what beholds their loveable troubled heroine for 25 years: when Again, Rachel was announced it made the headlines. So what's in store for the former addict? A stable life, a good marriage and a rewarding job. But all of that is threatened by the return of Luke, the man who sent Rachel spiralling in the first place. Keyes is back and better than ever in this fabulous sequel.
(2000) Sushi for Beginners
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.
(1996) Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
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.
(2008) This Charming Man
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.
(2001) Under the Duvet
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.
(2017) The Break
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.