Under The Duvet - Reviews


WHEN you hear the name Marian Keyes, all sorts of things come to mind romantic fiction, supermarket shelves, people called Lucy Sullivan getting married. Keyes is well known for many things, but is best known for her successful brand of quirky and insanely readable best-sellers.

While her novels may be well written ("for what they are", we say apologetically), Keyes's writing, along with contemporaries like Patricia Scanlan and Sheila O'Flanagan, is of a type that not many people are willing to admit to reading, let alone enjoying, despite the fact that their bookshelves are privately groaning under the weight of such authors' efforts.

Many people have accidentally read all of Keyes's books because "It was something to do on the flight" or "I left my Shakespeare's Collected Works on the bus," but the truth is that the author of Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and last year's Sushi For Beginners actually writes good popular fiction.

With her new book, Under the Duvet, however, Keyes has offered an amnesty to all literary snobs. Long-time closet readers of Keyes can finally come out as her latest book is not, as expected, another whimsical (but secretly unputdownable) novel, but a collection of her journalism.

They may not be ground-breaking investigative news pieces or undercover exposes, but nor is that what Marian Keyes's fans would expect or even want. The pieces, which cover topics from weight-loss to driving lessons, were originally published in Irish women's magazines as well as several Irish newspapers.

The book is highly enjoyable, not Least because the things Keyes talks about are so instantly recognisable, (we all know that lurching feeling that comes with the realisation that you've accidentally slammed on the accelerator instead of the brake). Keyes speaks of many humiliating events with undeniable knowledge and this kind of authenticity comes only with experience.

Her descriptions are hilarious, as are her memories, because they are ones that we can all relate to. Many remember the misery of childhood St Patrick's Day parades, watching a mangy float drift down O'Connell street amidst torrents of freezing rain or the annual embarrassment of the office Christmas party. Keyes manages to verbalise the most mundane of universal experiences and somehow make them funny.

While some of her stories do smack of embellishment (well, one hopes that some of them are embellished, for Keyes's sake) it by no means detracts from their entertainment factor.

As well as her published journalism for the likes of Irish Tatler; The Irish Independent and The Evening Herald, there are some preVIously unpublished pieces included in this collection and one of these is on alcoholism. Keyes speaks frankly about her battle with alcoholism and even though her experience was not a funny one she manages to inject it with some of her trademark humour.

For those who may think that this collection is a cheap attempt by Keyes to cash in on her famous name by tacking together a few bits of journalism she wrote years ago, all of the profits from Irish sales of this book will go to the Simon Community of Ireland, which puts paid to that theory.

Under The Duvet is a hugely entertaining read and the fact that it is a collection of journalism as opposed to popular fiction means that we, for those who care about such things, no longer have to read in shame. A word of warning though; while you no longer have to worry about the negative effects of publicly reading a Marian Keyes book, some discretion is still required as laughing out loud on buses can unnerve your fellow passengers.

Publication: Tribune