Marian Keyes

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Marian Keyes
Born (1963-09-10) 10 September 1963 (age 55)
Limerick, Ireland
OccupationWriter, novelist
Alma materDublin University
GenreWomen's literature
SubjectDomestic violence, drug abuse, mental illness, divorce and alcoholism
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 novelist and non-fiction writer, best known for her work in women's literature. She is an Irish Book Awards winner. By March 2017 over 35 million copies of her twelve novels preceding The Break (2017) have been sold and been translated into 33 languages.[1] She became known worldwide 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.[2]


Born in Limerick and raised in Monkstown (Dublin), Keyes graduated from Dublin University with a law degree. After completing her studies, Keyes took an administrative job before moving to London in 1986. During this period she developed alcoholism and clinical depression, culminating in a suicide attempt and subsequent rehabilitation in 1995 at the Rutland Centre in Dublin, Ireland. In an article for The Telegraph, Keyes details how her struggles with anxiety, depression, and alcoholism began from an early age.[3]

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 nonfiction.[4]

Keyes has written frankly about her clinical depression,[5] which left her unable to sleep, read, write, or talk.[6] After a long hiatus due to severe depression, a food title, Saved by Cake, was released in February 2012.[7]

All in all this dark period lasted about four years. During this time Keyes also wrote The Mystery of Mercy Close, a novel where the heroine experiences similar battles with depression and suicide attempts that Keyes herself battled with.[8] Keyes further describes this period of her life as "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 the guest for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her favourite track was "You Have Been Loved" by George Michael.[9] She revealed that she had battled constant suicidal urges at the height of her mental illness.[10] During her appearance on Desert Island Discs, Keyes also tells host Kirsty Young that in spite of all her efforts to treat her depression, ranging from cognitive behavioural therapy, medication, mindfulness, hospitalisation, diets, among others, what finally healed her was time. "It was an illness and it ran its course."[11]

In 2014, after Keyes went 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".[12]

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.[13]

Keyes currently lives in Dún Laoghaire with her husband Tony Baines, after returning to Ireland from London in 1997.


Although many of her novels are known as comedies, they revolve around dark themes often drawn from Keyes' 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.[14]

She is regarded as a pioneer of the 'chick-lit' genre;[5] 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."[15]

During an author Q & A in 2014 with Canada's Chatelaine magazine, when asked how she feels about being labeled as "Chick-lit" Keyes replied, "Fine now. It used to bother me because it’s so belittling – and 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. I wish that our world was far less patriarchal than it is, but we’re all doing our best to bring about positive changes.[16]

Keyes' 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.”[17] In the same interview Keyes further explains to Ingles how she suspects that gender bias is at play when recognising the impact of female authors in literary fiction. Despite her tremendous success and acclaim, male authors with less commercial success are held in higher regard. "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. I wonder if a group of young Irish men around the same age had been selling in huge numbers, I really think it would not have passed unremarked."[17]

During her appearance on Desert Island Discs in March 2017, host Kirsty Young mentions how wrongly categorised Keyes' works are and wonders why that is. Keyes remarked 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.[15]



  • 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)


  • 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. ^ [1]'Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant 'suicidal impulses, The Guardian (12 March 2017)
  2. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (20 April 2008). "Marian Keyes ready to tackle domestic violence". Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Marian Keyes". 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Williams, Charlotte (23 September 2011). "Marian Keyes to write cookery for MJ spring list". London. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  8. ^ Ingle, Róisín (9 September 2017). "Marian Keyes: 'There's an awful lot of riding in my book'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Marian Keyes, Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
  10. ^ Hunt, Elle (12 March 2017). "Novelist Marian Keyes reveals fight against constant 'suicidal impulses'". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2017 – via
  11. ^ Taylor, Sarah (17 March 2017). "Desert Island Discs". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Marian Keyes says Marian Finucane has the 'empathy of a cardboard box'!". 12 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Marian Keyes admits she went for 'cheap laugh' with 'offensive' tweet about Roscommon/South Leitrim vote in marriage referendum". 24 May 2015.
  14. ^ Reference 3
  15. ^ a b Reference 11
  16. ^ Grassi, Laurie (4 November 2014). "Marian Keyes on her new book, sex scenes and the term chick lit". Chatelaine. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  17. ^ a b Reference 8

External links[edit]