In praise of Marian Keyes, by Claire Hennessy

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘if you’ve ever read her work you know just how carefully she juxtaposes her sharp observations and wit against sadness and pain’

Marian Keyes: “Her books are compulsively readable while being skilfully crafted – and utterly hilarious. She is a writer we are damn lucky to claim as one of our own.” Photograph: Barry McCall

Marian Keyes: “Her books are compulsively readable while being skilfully crafted – and utterly hilarious. She is a writer we are damn lucky to claim as one of our own.” Photograph: Barry McCall

I read the most recent Marian Keyes novel, The Woman Who Stole My Life, on a train. There are books you shouldn’t read in public: I spent half my time hiding laughter and the other half furiously blinking back tears.

Marian Keyes is often dismissed as escapist or frothy, but if you’ve ever read her work you know just how carefully she juxtaposes her sharp observations and wit against sadness and pain. Her narrators are frequently depressed (I can’t think of a single other writer who has written so well about depression), sometimes alcoholics; her work never shies away from the difficulties of life and particularly the issues more likely to hit women harder – domestic abuse, abortion, infertility, rape, caring for an aged parent, sexism in the workplace. As an observer of Irish culture she is spot-on about the tendency to shove problems under the rug, as well as various absurdities in political and popular culture. Her books are compulsively readable while being skilfully crafted – and utterly hilarious. She is a writer we are damn lucky to claim as one of our own.

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