Marian Keyes

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Marian Keyes
Born (1963-09-10) 10 September 1963 (age 56)
Limerick, Ireland
OccupationWriter, novelist
Alma materUniversity College Dublin
GenreChick lit
Women's literature
Mental illness
Domestic violence
Drug abuse
Notable worksFiction
Watermelon (1995)
Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married (1996)
This Charming Man (2008)
Tony Baines (m. 1995)

Marian Keyes (born 10 September 1963) is an Irish writer of fiction noted for its readability.[1] As well as her novels, she produces non-fiction and is best known for her work in women's literature. Much of her writing deals with family life.[2]

Abroad she became known for Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married, Rachel's Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Anybody Out There, and This Charming Man, with themes including alcoholism, depression, addiction, cancer, bereavement, and domestic violence.[3] By March 2017 more than 35 million copies of her 12 novels preceding The Break (2017) had been sold and had been translated into 33 languages.[4] Her writing has won both the Irish Popular Fiction Book and the Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year, each on one occasion, at the Irish Book Awards.

She is self-confessed sexist, explaining that she will only accept books written by women to sit on her shelves, and never reads the work of men, whom she claims are "not worth reading".[1][5][6]


Keyes comes from a large family, with many siblings.[2] Born in Limerick and raised in Monkstown, Dublin, she graduated from University College Dublin with a law degree. After completing her studies, Keyes took an administrative job before moving to London in 1986. During this period she became an alcoholic and was affected by clinical depression, culminating in a suicide attempt and subsequent rehabilitation in 1995 at the Rutland Centre in Dublin. In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Keyes details how her struggles with anxiety, depression, and alcoholism began at an early age.[7]

Keyes began writing short stories while suffering from alcoholism. After her treatment at the Rutland Centre she returned to her job in London and submitted her short stories to Poolbeg Press. The publisher encouraged her to submit a full-length novel and Keyes began work on her first book, Watermelon. The novel was published the same year. Since 1995 she has published 13 novels and four works of non-fiction.[8]

Keyes has written frankly about her clinical depression,[9][better source needed] which left her unable to sleep, read, write, or talk.[10][better source needed] After a long hiatus due to severe depression, a food title, Saved by Cake, was published in February 2012.[11]

All in all, this dark period lasted about four years. During this time Keyes also wrote The Mystery of Mercy Close, a novel in which the heroine experiences similar battles with depression and suicide attempts as those Keyes herself battled.[12] As Keyes further describes this period of her life: "It was like being in an altered reality . . . I was always melancholic and prone to sadness and hopelessness but this was catastrophic and unimaginable."

In March 2017, Keyes was a guest castaway for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her favourite track was "You Have Been Loved" by George Michael.[13] She revealed that she had battled constant suicidal urges at the height of her mental illness.[4] During her appearance on the show, Keyes also told host Kirsty Young that in spite of all her efforts to treat her depression, ranging from CBT, medication, mindfulness, hospitalisation, diets, among other things, what finally healed her was time: "It was an illness and it ran its course."[14]

Keyes lives in Dún Laoghaire with her husband Tony Baines, after returning to Ireland from London in 1997.[citation needed]


Although many of her novels are known as comedies, they revolve around dark themes often drawn from Keyes's own experiences, including domestic violence, drug abuse, mental illness, divorce and alcoholism. Keyes considers herself a feminist, and has chosen to reflect feminist issues in many of her books.[7]

She is regarded as a pioneer of the chick lit genre;[9] her stories usually revolve around a strong female character who overcomes numerous obstacles to achieve lasting happiness. Regarding her decision to use an optimistic tone and hopeful ending, Keyes has said: "I'm very bleak, really melancholic. But I've always used humour as a survival mechanism. I write for me and I need to feel hopeful about the human condition. So no way I'm going to write a downbeat ending. And it isn't entirely ludicrous to suggest that sometimes things might work out for the best."[14] During an author Q & A in 2014 with Canada's Chatelaine magazine, when asked how she feels about the term "chick lit" Keyes claimed that "it’s meant to be belittling. It’s as if it’s saying, 'Oh you silly girls, with your pinkness and shoes, how will you ever run the world?' But as I’ve matured (haha) I’ve realised that I'm very proud of what I write about and I know that the books I write bring happiness and comfort to people".[15] Yet even her admirers, women themselves, regard her writing as chick lit.[16]

Keyes's gift for tackling difficult subjects and making them relatable to women all over, without sacrificing quality or tact, has been recognised by her peers. As told to The Irish Times by another Irish author: "It’s a rare gift....The only other writer I can think of who writes so hilariously and movingly about serious subjects was the late, great Sue Townsend."[12]


In 2014, after Keyes appeared on Marian Finucane's RTÉ One show to talk about her new book, she told her Twitter followers that Finucane had the "compassion and empathy of a cardboard box. Even my mammy called her a bad word".[17]

In 2015, she herself was accused of a lack of empathy after offending the people of two counties – Leitrim and Roscommon – by insulting them on the night of the election count in the marriage referendum. Even though she deleted her original comment she admitted to having done so for "a cheap laugh", one which alienated readers in two counties.[18]

During her appearance on Desert Island Discs in March 2017, Keyes told the host her view that by "conditioning women to think that what they find empowering or valuable is worth less than what men consider to be worthwhile, women are prevented from reaching for parity and the gender gap in power and money between men and women is kept in the favour of men".[14]

In an interview with The Irish Times in 2017, Keyes announced that she suspected "gender bias" to be at play when it comes to the recognition of women writers. She claimed that, despite her perceived success and acclaim, male writers with less commercial success were held in higher regard, indicating her idea that the writing which sells the most is the most well written. "Do you remember in the early noughties when a lot of Irish women writers like Cathy Kelly, Sheila O’Flanagan, Cecelia Ahern were selling all over the world? I don’t feel that was celebrated enough." She went on to "wonder" (her word) that "if a group of young Irish men around the same age had been selling in huge numbers", before directly turning the question she had posed into her view: "I really think it would not have passed unremarked."[12]

She does not believe genes play a part in determining the make up of the individual or their behaviour, telling an interviewer in 2020 that "no one is born a certain way, people learn it".[2]

Keyes is self-confessed sexist, explaining that she will only accept books written by women to sit on her shelves, and never reads the work of men, whom she claims are "not worth reading".[1][5][6]



  • Watermelon (1995) (Claire Walsh)
  • Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married (1996)
  • Rachel's Holiday (1998) (Rachel Walsh)
  • Last Chance Saloon (1999)
  • Sushi for Beginners (2000)
  • No Dress Rehearsal (2000)
  • Angels (2002) (Maggie Walsh)
  • The Other Side of the Story (2004)
  • Nothing Bad ever Happens in Tiffany's (2005)
  • Anybody Out There? (2006) (Anna Walsh)
  • This Charming Man (2008)
  • The Brightest Star in the Sky (2009)
  • Mammy Walsh's A–Z of the Walsh Family: An e-book Short (August 2012)
  • The Mystery of Mercy Close (September 2012) (Helen Walsh)
  • The Woman Who Stole My Life (November 2014)
  • The Break (September 2017)
  • Grown Ups (February 2020)


  • Under the Duvet (2001)
  • Further under the Duvet (2005)
  • Cracks In My Foundation in Damage Control – Women on the Therapists, Beauticians, and Trainers Who Navigate Their Bodies edited by Emma Forrest (2007)
  • Saved by Cake (2012)
  • Making It Up As I Go Along (February 2016)

Film and television adaptations[edit]


  • 2009 – Irish Book Awards; winner of the Irish Popular Fiction Book for This Charming Man
  • 2016 – Irish Book Awards; The Ireland AM Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year Making It Up As I Go Along


  1. ^ a b c Moore, Suzanne (10 February 2020). "Marian Keyes is right: books by male authors are overrated". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 February 2020. Keyes, a lady writer, is able to tell searing truths... is able to touch deep subjects with lightness and that quality dreaded by the literary world, readability.
  2. ^ a b c Steele, Francesca (31 January 2020). "Marian Keyes: the best-selling author on diets, sexism and being inspired by Gen Z: The popular writer's new book follows the story of a large, chaotic family with similarities to her own". Retrieved 31 January 2020. Keyes comes from a big family... and enjoys writing about life inside a large nest.
  3. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (20 April 2008). "Marian Keyes ready to tackle domestic violence". Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b Hunt, Elle (12 March 2017). "Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant 'suicidal impulses'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b Devlin, Martina (14 February 2020). "'I'm being sexist because I'm tired with the other kind of sexism' - Keyes gives up on male authors". Irish Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  6. ^ a b Lennie, David (12 February 2020). "The fiction that male authors aren't worth reading". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  7. ^ a b Fox-Leonard, Boudicca (9 September 2017). "Marian Keyes: 'As a child I was scared I would become an alcoholic'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Marian Keyes". 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  9. ^ a b Bates, Daniel (6 January 2010). "Marian Keyes apologises to fans for crippling depression which has left her unable to sleep, read, write or talk". Daily Mail. London.
  10. ^ Keyes, Marian (14 September 2012). "My midlife meltdown: Marian Keyes tells terrifying story detailing the reality of a breakdown". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  11. ^ Williams, Charlotte (23 September 2011). "Marian Keyes to write cookery for MJ spring list". London. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  12. ^ a b c Ingle, Róisín (9 September 2017). "Marian Keyes: 'There's an awful lot of riding in my book'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Marian Keyes, Desert Island Discs". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Taylor, Sarah (17 March 2017). "Desert Island Discs". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  15. ^ Grassi, Laurie (4 November 2014). "Marian Keyes on her new book, sex scenes and the term chick lit". Chatelaine. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  16. ^ Jabour, Bridie (14 June 2017). "In our series Beauty and the books, we chat to those who love both books and beauty products. Here the author talks about her enduring love of kohl eyeliner and Marian Keyes's novel Watermelon". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2017. The book that really shaped me when I was younger was Watermelon by Marian Keyes. I absolutely love that book – it was the book that made me want to be a writer. It was so funny and irreverent; she broke so many rules. I went through a whole phase of chick lit when I was younger and she didn’t talk about shopping and dating in the way other books did...
  17. ^ "Marian Keyes says Marian Finucane has the 'empathy of a cardboard box'!". 12 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Marian Keyes admits she went for 'cheap laugh' with 'offensive' tweet about Roscommon/South Leitrim vote in marriage referendum". 24 May 2015.

External links[edit]