7 Reasons to Wish Marian Keyes Happy Birthday
10th Sep 2013
1. She’s the perfect defence against the anti-romance league
I suppose it’s to be expected that I find myself having to defend my addiction to romance novels on a regular basis, and Marian Keyes is a key part of my defence.
It’s so utterly satisfying to point people in her direction and watch them return – slightly stunned – when they realise that her characters go through a hell of a lot before they reach their Happy Ever After.
All her books are, as she’s often asserted, “a comedy about something serious.” Her writing encapsulates why I love the genre; it’s funny and heartbreaking and truer than we want to admit.
2. The Apprentice – You’re Fired
“Fair play to you.” – She was the perfect counter to the waspish men surrounding her. And bitingly funny.
3. She’s damn good at metaphors
A very good metaphor is hard to create: it can’t be too dramatic or it turns into cliché, but if it’s insipid you’ve lost your audience forever.
Keyes has this ability to come up with metaphors that are not only brilliant comparisons, but scan divinely and seem to dance on the page.
“June the first, a bright summer’s evening, a Monday. I’ve been flying over the streets and houses of Dublin and now, finally, I’m here.”
This is not a typical Marian Keyes novel; the narrator is an invisible presence who floats through the lives of those who live at number 66 Star Street, as opposed to one of the twenty or thirty-somethings who dominate the narrative.
There’s something almost fey-like in the gently amused observations of someone who doesn’t quite know how to take the inhabitants of the house, and it simultaneously distances us from the narrative of the lives we’re spying upon, whilst making us empathise with the unknowing occupants.
5. Helen Walsh
Introduced in Watermelon, the book that jumpstarted Keyes’ career a mere year after her suicide attempt, Helen’s my favourite out of the five Walsh sisters and guest stars in all of her sisters’ stories.
Helen’s own novel, The Mystery of Mercy Close gives us a bitingly waspish, extremely likeable heroine who we then watch fall apart. There are two suicide attempts – one based upon Keyes’ own – and the entangled stories see Helen struggling to cope with her depression.
Depression is something that isn’t written about enough, and Helen is a freshing break from the self-pitying and the unsympathetic. You get to experience a catharsis that wears you out without making you want to roll your eyes.
6. Happy Ever Afters
“I would rather never be published again than write a downbeat ending. I couldn’t have something permanent in the world like a book with something that accepted that life is as painful as it really is.”
Marian Keyes’ openess about her own depression and what she’s experienced suggests her devotion to the Happy Ever After is partly an attempt at an escape, and partly wishful thinking. Either way there should be more Happy Ever Afters – they give the rest of us hope.
7. Saved by Cake – Drawer of Dreams
This is where the series of Youtube videos that accompanied her autobiography-come-cookbook came into its own. Keyes is funny. We’re talking funny-enough-to-hold-her-own-on-a-panel-of-comedians kind of funny (see Reason Two).
So when she bakes and cooks and invites you to look inside a drawer of hidden baking delights, you watch. And right at the end of the video she says this:
“I would just like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that I do have a law degree; I am not a complete moron. What I am trying to say is that I am the totality of womanhood.
Just because I like pink flowers and all of that, you mustn’t judge me and think that I’m a half-wit – neurotic, yes – but not a half-wit. I’m just saying that women – and men! – in fact everyone should be allowed to enjoy shiny cake decorations and not be made to feel stupid.”
And I think that’s why I love Marian Keyes most. She makes no apology for who she is, what she writes or what she likes; and as a feminist addicted to chick lit, this makes me smile.
Ali blogs about perceptions of romance, chick lit and women in society over at Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado