11th Jun 2010
The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes
Heartbreak. The worst of times for a ‘normal’ person, but for one crippled by serotonin imbalances and month-long compulsions to burrow under the duvet, it can be the nail in the emotional coffin. As someone who has suffered from such afflictions, I was devastated to find myself floored by epic heartbreak a few years ago. Barely able to function, incapable of mustering a smile, and only soothed by playing Friends DVD’s on repeat, I was a useless lump of no-good and could not see an end in sight. Cue Big Sister Barlow swooping into my fug of sadness armed with a copy of Marian Keyes‘ The Other Side of the Story.
I’ll be the first to admit I was reticent about cracking open chick lit: I am a writer for goodness sakes. I am learned and well read. I devour the classics, for fun. Books about girls and feelings? Me? Absolutely not. Yet, in my weakened state, I was powerless to resist and thus began my relationship with the Keyes woman.
It was as though someone had wrapped me in a blanket, force-fed me tea and stroked my hair: with every sentence I read, a little part of my heartbreak was forgotten. During those awful days when all you can do is pass the time until your feelings catch up with your brain, I spent hour after hour quietly and contentedly nosing through Marian’s back catalogue.
The reason for her most wondrous healing power? Very simply, her warmth, humility, delicious sense of humour and astute observations. This is not vacuous nonsense about boys and shopping (although these themes do make fairly regular appearances) but rather genuine and enormously humorous explorations into ‘things that matter’.
Characters such as the entire Walsh family (oh Helen, how I love thee) and Lola Daly in This Charming Man are absolute triumphs. Her ability to simultaneously create pathos and humour (Anybody Out There) is second to none. Not only is Keyes blessed with a quick wit, but she just writes really good stories. Stories that hook you from the first word, and refuse to let you go until you’ve devoured the final page. Many a time I have found myself lying in a tepid, sudsy bath, shivering and prune-like, yet bravely ploughing through each chapter because I simply must.
I used to see Marian’s books as something to treasure and would save each one for truly troubled times. These days they sit proudly next to my classics and seminal feminist texts. I am a Keyesaholic, and I am proud.
You can grab yourself new and used copies of Marian’s gems on Amazon for as little as a penny!
Post by Annette Barlow