Monday, March 29, 2010

Author Marian Keyes - Skillful Chick Lit

Author Marian Keyes was raised and currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has written nine novels, generally in the chick lit genre, and a number of short stories. I really enjoy her novels; although they are chick lit, they often have some deeper themes and are not just fluff. I like my fluff, believe me, but if a book is all fluff it won't hold my interest for long. I enjoy following the outrageous predicaments often faced by her female protagonists while their heart endears them to me. When asked in a Book interview about the Chick Lit genre, Keyes had this to say:

The title [chick lit] is meant to be demeaning, but it's a very important genre. It articulates (or it did in beginning) our post-feminist world, which is all contradiction and the choices inherent in that. Today women are independent --- they have money and jobs, and all are equal in the workplace, except that it's the guys who get promoted. It also articulates our obsession with body image and food, and our anxieties --- career vs. motherhood, career vs. relationships. My generation is the first generation to benefit from what the feminists had done in the '60s and '70s. We believed everything was perfect and that everything was done with feminism. And it articulates our addictions --- exercise, spending too much, etc. Chick Lit uses humor to reflect life back to us. It's a very comforting genre, and it's the first time our generation has had a voice. It's a very important genre for all of those reasons. Yes, my books do fall into this category. Of course, the genre (like any genre) has writers of varying qualities. But the way it sells shows how important it is, how comforting women find it.

Four of Keyes's novels feature the Walsh sisters (Watermelon, Angels, Rachel's Holiday and Anybody Out There)- these novels stand alone but the Walsh sisters do appear in each of the four novels. I have read all four but thought I would feature brief reviews of Watermelon and Anybody Out There since these are her first and last (thus far) novels with the Walsh sisters.

In Watermelon, Keyes introduces us to Claire, the oldest of the five Walsh sisters. Claire thinks she is married to the perfect man until, just hours after the birth of their first child, he announces he is leaving her. Discharged from the maternity ward and carrying all her pregnancy weight (hence the name, Watermelon), Claire seeks refuge with her family in her Dublin childhood home. We are introduced to the Walsh cast of characters including Claire's parents and two of her four sisters and you get a nice taste of what the other books featuring this family will be like but the story is really Claire's. Although Claire's self-deprecating humor makes for a light read, more serious themes are also addressed as Claire faces her decimated self-esteem and discovers the value of being loved for who she really is and not for some ideal she tried to project. This, my first of the Walsh sister books by Marian Keyes, definitely whetted my appetite and I promptly sought out the rest of the Walsh sister novels.

Anybody Out There?, focuses on Claire's sister, Anna. The book opens with Anna at home in the family's Dublin home recuperating from an unspecified injury. The novel then flashes back to Anna's life as a make-up PR exec in NYC and we learn more and more about her life living single in the city. As the flashbacks progress, we also learn of her courtship and ultimately married life in NYC with her husband, Aidan (he noticeably absent from her bedside in Dublin). It clear something catastrophic has happened but the nature of the incident that caused Anna's injuries and the location of her husband, Aidan are not disclosed to the reader and I was truly surprised when everything began to unfold in the last third of the book. This novel elevates chick lit by focusing on the heavy themes of grief and loss while still maintaining her signature humor and light tone. The juxtaposition of grief and humor could fail terribly but this author works with both themes well and the result is an enjoyable but emotional read.

Check out the author's website for more info on her life and a quick look at each of her nine novels. I have her 8th novel, This Charming Man on my shelf and am looking forward to diving into it!
What are your opinions of Chick Lit? Do you deliberately avoid it or are you drawn to it?


  1. I like chick lit and read it. I don't always feel in the mood for it. But sometimes you have to read a silly girl book that will get you laughing.

    I've enjoyed Keyes books but haven't read either of those.

  2. Interesting post! As you probably know, I love Chick Lit. I hate the literary snobbery against it. Like Marian Keyes says, there is the very good and very bad, as with any genre. Anybody Out There is a great example of very good, and intelligent writing (I loved that book!. I hate the attitude that if something is popular, it must be dumbed down. To me that's ridiculous, because surely the fact it is popular means many people think it is very good. For me, reading and enjoying chick lit is about personal taste and not intelligence. And there is such a huge scope of chick lit covering anything from fun and humorous to serious and emotional, to write it all off as 'fluff' is just wrong.

    I have A Charming Man here to read too, I've read many great things about it and that it covers some very difficult subjects, definitely not fluff! Hope you enjoy!

  3. I haven't read any books by this author, but I've been aware of her. Chick lit is not really my genre of choice much, but on occasion, I do read a book or two. Some of the entries are really good. Thanks for sharing about Marian Keyes.

  4. Unfortunately, I've had the bad luck of running into my fair share of BAD chick lit. It's like bad Chinese food. If I have awful lomein, I'm not likely to go back for a while, regardless of the restaurant.

    Your post has me curious about Marian Keyes...

  5. Great review. I will definitely check these books out. Thank you.

  6. I really enjoy chick lit. I tend to lean more toward the UK authors of this genre though. There is some bad chick lit out there but there is some fabulous out there as well.

    Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors. The Brightest Star in the Sky is one of my favourite books of 2009. I fully agree with what she said about the genre using humour to reflect life back at us. Chick lit is a nice refreshing break from the everyday stresses.

  7. Great intro an author I haven’t read, although I’ve heard plenty of praise for her. You make me want to read her work. I prefer “women’s fiction” to “chick lit” as it’s more empowering. I agree that it has given our generation and gender a voice. That’s part of the reason I write it, although on the more substantive end of the spectrum.

  8. I am totally drawn to chick lit. I love the pretty covers and all the romance, I LOVE IT ALL!!

    I've been wanting to check out some MARIAN KEYES. I'll HAVE to now!!


  9. I have ready Other Side of the story by her and it was fascinating. I liked it so much. It was 3 years ago, I still read some of its pages again. Now, I'm reading Anybody out there and so excited about it. Can't wait to finish it. Hope you all enjıy reading her, she is perfect...