Under the duvet - Marian Keyes
Author / plot.
Marian Keyes is one of the most successful Irish novelists of all time.
She was born in the West of Ireland in 1963
She was brought up in Dublin, and then she spent her twenties in London.
Though she was brought up in a home where a lot of oral story-telling went on, it never occurred to her that she could write. Instead she studied law and accountancy and finally started writing short stories in 1993. Her first book Watermelon was published in Ireland in 1995. Since then she has become a publishing phenomenon.
Her books are an unusual blend of comedy and darkness and cover subjects like depression, addiction, illness or domestic violence, but always written with compassion, humour and hope.
Marian Keyes is a very successful author of chick-lit (a fiction genre which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly)
Her novels are simple, long, readable stories concerned with "emotional landscapes"(in her own words). They mix humour and serious matters, with reasonable dialogues.
However, Under the Duvet is not a novel. It is a collection of journalistic pieces, which cover topics from weight-loss to driving lessons, written by Keyes for various publications, mostly Irish (such as Irish women’s magazines as well as several Irish newspapers). There are also included a few previously unpublished texts.
They may not be ground-breaking investigative pieces or undercover essays, but nor is that what Marian Keyes's fans would expect or even want.
Besides that, there’s one important pro/advantage about it and it’s that– unlike a novel, it can be read in any order you please; so you can even start at the back if you want. I like the idea because this way you can dip in and out of the book freely,
Why this book.
Many years ago I got to know this author when a friend of my sister lent us one of her novels. Since then, I’ve read some of them (but always in Spanish, never in English)
I enjoy reading chick-lit from time to time. So, when we had to chose a book, and I saw one of keyes’ novels on the school library, I knew for sure that I wanted to read this one. At least, it was written by an author I just knew and read before, and I could imagine how the experience of reading it could be. At first I thought It wouldn’t be an awful, complicated or struggling experience.
To start with, I liked its appearance, that’s why I picked it. But, in fact, I avoided some important details, such as, this is not a novel, is a book made of a collection of short stories. Anyway, I didn’t matter, because it helped me to read it. Why? Because these pieces were not designed to be read all-in-one-go. Nowadays I’m quite busy, and I don’t have so much time to enjoy reading. So, I could keep going on the reading whenever I had some free time, for example, while I was on the bus, just before going to bed, while I was waiting for my coffee to be ready… etc.
Secondly, I can say that she writes about her life, her friends, her family, holidays, Christmas parties, work issues and partners, buying a house, learning to drive, marriage… etc And that’s a good point because all her stories are about daily life experiences you can relate to. The book is also structured in different parts according to these topics.
On one hand, the essay that stood out the most for me was her piece about her alcoholism. During her twenties her low self esteem gradually mutated [miutéitid] into a drinking problem. This essay was honest and touching. Keyes speaks frankly about her battle with alcoholism and even though her experience was not a funny one she manages to inject it with humour and sincerity. It impressed /shocked me hugely. For sure, it’s the most interesting and astonishing article of this book and the one I will never forget.
On the other hand, Towards the end of the book, some short stories bored me a bit and I must admit I didn't enjoy these as much as the rest of the book. But, don’t worry, because they don’t spoil the whole book.
Furthermore, other thing that made me like this book was the use of familiar and colloquial language and vocabulary. Sometimes this fact made it quite difficult to understand what she was telling, but, as usual, in the context you were able to find out what she was referring to. However, I liked it because it helps me to get used to the way English people write and speak. It’s really useful to be familiar with some English expressions. Some examples:
I’d never been to Vietnam before, but as the plane circled over dense foliage, emerald-bright paddy fields, graceful palm trees, their blades silver in the sunlight, and patient-faced, sloe-eyed girls working in the fields, I had a powerful sense of recognition.
We all tuned to see a bening-smiling, flushed-of-face, pint-holding man standing in the doorway of the pub by the canal.
Getting old it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. Another honour, this month has fallen to me…
Finally, I think that If you like Marian Keyes' novels you will probably like this book. I must advice you not to expect to find the same Marian Keyes writings you find when you read her novels. You’ll find slight differences; not only on her stories but also on the way they flow. But eventually, it’s worth reading. I think this book It’s a good way to bring closer with the author.
Anyway, if you haven’t read yet any of Marian keyes’ stories but you enjoy reading short real stories, mixing humour and serious matters, I think you should give it a try.