Marian Keyes: ‘Asking For It is the most relevant, most exciting book about Ireland in a very long time’

‘Asking For It is definitely polemic. But it’s also an excellent novel, a great read, a gripping page-turner with brilliant characterisation’

Marian Keyes: “Louise O’Neill is righteously angry and utterly fearless and her voice is the voice of a new Ireland, of young women who didn’t imbibe shame along with their mother’s milk”

Marian Keyes: “Louise O’Neill is righteously angry and utterly fearless and her voice is the voice of a new Ireland, of young women who didn’t imbibe shame along with their mother’s milk”

 

It’s rare to read a novel about rape. It’s rarer still to read one that doesn’t belong to the crime/hunting-a-serial-killer genre. And it’s downright astonishing to read a novel about rape set in contemporary Ireland.

Louise’s first novel Only Ever Yours gave me great hope and clearly gave a voice to the young women of Ireland (I saw how it politicised my 15-year-old niece and helped her articulate her nascent feminism.) Even though it was ostensibly a dystopian novel, it was clearly a depiction of the world we live in now, where women are encouraged to starve themselves, be compliant, to fat-shame their peers, and to fight among themselves for the approval of men.

Asking For It fulfilled all the promise of Only Ever Yours. A novel about a young woman who is raped and then shamed on social media couldn’t be more relevant. Not only does the Irish legal system treat rape victims with shameful disregard (only a tiny minority of rape cases ever make it to trial) but socially, a raped woman is treated as dirty, as a slut, as someone who brought it on herself, while the rapist is usually lauded by his peers.

Asking For It made me realise how strange it is that we think we’ve come so far in terms of women’s rights when in fact we’ve made no progress whatsoever. Things might actually be worse than they used to be, because social media can now post images of the raped woman, stripping away any privacy and dignity.

Louise’s main character Emma is far from perfect – and this ambivalence is brilliant because it’s just like real life. It would have been so easy to make Emma an angel, because then we’d have no doubt about who were the goodies and who were the baddies. But real life is messy – women who’ve been raped are imperfect human beings, and their imperfections are UTTERLY IRRELEVANT when the question of rape is considered: rape is rape.

Asking For It is definitely polemic. But it’s also an excellent novel, a great read, with brilliant characterisation – Emma, her mum, her dad, her brother, her friends, they’re all fully realised and believeable. As is the atmosphere in the small town in which she lives. It’s also a gripping page-turner – the build-up to the rape is tense and interesting and the fallout is tragic and all-too-believable.

Louise is righteously angry and utterly fearless and her voice is the voice of a new Ireland, of young women who didn’t imbibe shame along with their mother’s milk.

I think Asking For It is the most relevant, most exciting book to have been written about Ireland in a very long time.

Marian Keyes is one of Ireland’s most successful authors. Her latest novel is The Woman Who Stole My Life.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill is published by Quercus.

If you have a question for the author, email bookclub@irishtimes.com

Over the next four weeks, we will be publishing a series of interviews and features exploring the book, culminating in a public interview with Louise O’Neill in association with the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin, on Thursday, October 8th, at 7.30 pm, which will be recorded for a podcast on irishtimes.com the following week. Tickets€5/€3, and €7 on the door.

Competition

We have 10 copies of Asking For It and 10 tickets to the Irish Writers Centre event to give away. To enter, email your answer to the following question to bookclub@irishtimes.com by Friday, September 25th. The first 10 correct entries win. What is the name of Louise O’Neill’s award-winning debut novel?

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