Showing posts with label Marian Keyes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marian Keyes. Show all posts

Friday, 19 October 2012

Friday book review - The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

I do love Marian Keyes’s books. Her latest, The Mystery of Mercy Close, proves yet again that Keyes is in a league of her own. Even when she’s writing about hard-hitting subjects like depression and bankruptcy, as she is here, she’s perceptive and funny, moving and wise.

The novel’s heroine is Helen Walsh, the youngest and stroppiest of Mammy Walsh’s five daughters. Older sisters Claire, Rachel, Maggie and Anna have all starred in earlier Keyes novels, so this time round it’s Helen’s turn in the spotlight.

After spells as a make-up artist and the “world’s worst waitress,” Helen has now trained as a private investigator and set up her own business. But with the credit crunch at its height, her work has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and she’s had to move back in with her parents. Most worrying of all, she’s sinking into the depression that has plagued her on and off throughout her life.

Helen explains her situation in her own inimitable way: “…when the crash hit, I was one of the first things to go,” she says. “Private investigators are luxury items and the It bags and I came out of things very badly.”

But out of the blue her conman ex-boyfriend asks her to track down a missing musician. Wayne Diffney, the “wacky one” from boyband Laddz, has gone missing just five days before the group’s sell-out comeback show.

Helen isn’t keen on getting involved with her shady ex-lover a second time, especially as she’s got charismatic copper Artie Devlin in her life, but she reluctantly agrees.

The sharp-tongued Helen, with her “shovel list” of things she hates - dogs, doctors’ receptionists and the smell of fried eggs (I’m with her there) - and her love of Scandinavian box sets and cheese and coleslaw sandwiches, is one of Keyes’s most memorable creations. I hope she gets to star in another novel. And soon…

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, £18.99)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Marian Keyes and her new baking book

The best news of the week is that the brilliant Marian Keyes has written a new book - and it's out this month.

For the past two and a quarter years the bestselling Irish novelist has suffered from debilitating depression, unable, as she writes in her latest (and very moving) blog, “to get out of bed or concentrate on a sentence or motivate myself to do anything.”

But on her better days she found the one thing that appealed to her was baking cakes. In fact she found it so comforting that she started writing the recipes down, and hooray, her book on the subject (called Saved by Cake) is out in two weeks time. It’s not only an honest account of how she coped with depression but how baking helped her get through the day. As she baked and worked out the recipes, she found that little by little her depression started to lift.

Keyes has also revealed that she’s almost finished a novel – great news for her millions of fans. Part love story, part thriller, it doesn’t have a title yet but will be out in the autumn. I can’t wait to read it.
I discovered Keyes’ novels when I had to spend a month lying on my side after an eye operation. I couldn’t read, use the internet or watch TV, so to pass the time, my daughter downloaded a ton of audio books for me to listen to. The hours flew by as I worked my way through all the books Keyes had written.

I don’t know how she does it but she manages to puts a smile on your face and makes you think. All at the same time. Her books - my favourites are Last Chance Saloon and The Other Side of the Story - are warm, witty and wise. Even when she’s writing about hard-hitting subjects like divorce, depression or alcoholism, she’s never preachy or pious. Her dialogue is true to life (unlike other novelists I could mention) and her characters are utterly believable. And how can you not love a writer who comes up with cracking one-liners like “never trust a man with two mobile phones” and “there’s not much in life that can’t be fixed by cake?” As she's found out herself.

Picture: Neil Cooper

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The fabulous RNA

Romantic fiction often gets slated – largely due, as Joanna Trollope once said, to snobbery and the genre’s pink covers, embossed lettering and “cartoon drawings of cocktail glasses and handbags and ditsy girls falling off their designer heels.”

But so much of the criticism is downright unfair. A total of 25 million romantic novels are bought by readers in the UK every year and romantic fiction boasts some of the most talented writers around. Marian Keyes, for instance, is a wonderful novelist and has covered everything from domestic violence and depression to alcoholism and dementia in her ten bestselling books. If you haven’t read Last Chance Saloon or The Other Side of the Story by the way, you are in for a treat.

But I digress. I had to write this blog after reading Claudia Connell’s sneery piece about the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s summer party in today’s Daily Mail. She claimed it made her feel as though she’d “accidentally stumbled into the Annual General Meeting of the Jam Makers and Knitted Toy Association” and described the guests as “the kind of ladies you’d find working in charity shops or arranging the church flowers.”

RNA members were outraged by her remarks. And I’m not surprised. I’m not an RNA member but I’ve been to lots of their parties and they’re a fabulous group of novelists, not at all the type she describes.

They’re impossible to pigeon-hole either. They range from young to old, from ultra-glam to not-so-glam and from writers just starting out to novelists whose books fly into the bestseller lists the minute they’re published.

New chair Annie Ashurst, for instance, is not only a highly successful Mills and Boon author (she writes as Sara Craven) but also a former Mastermind champion and member of the RNA team that stormed through to the final of University Challenge – the Professionals a few years back. Outgoing chair Katie Fforde has just had her 16th novel, Summer of Love, published to great acclaim while press officer Catherine Jones, aka Kate Lace, will see her 15th book, Gypsy Wedding, hit the book shops in August. Between them they’ve shifted loads of books over the years – and helped countless RNA members along the tricky road to publication too.

The image shows the cover of Fabulous at Fifty, a history of the RNA's first 50 years.
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