“They said I was a drug addict. But my occasional drug use was strictly recreational. And, hey, surely drug addicts are skinny?’
Rachel is living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her hot boyfriend Luke.
Then her sensible older sister shows up and even though it seems like a bad joke, she finds herself in actual rehab.
It’s there that she’s supposed to kick her non-existent drug habit – and to get over losing Luke. Luke’s a fox; he’s also strong and kind, but he has had more than he can take of Rachel.
None of this was part of her plan and saying goodbye to fun will be hard.
But not as hard as losing the man that, too late, she believes might be the love of her life.”
Bit of a retro review today which might make a nice change! I’ve not signed up for many blog tours this month, as I wanted to take the pressure off during NaNoWriMo, so I was planning on using the break to make a dent in my TBR. Then my friend, Kate, over at Ideas Become Words mentioned that she had started reading the copy of Rachel’s Holiday I had given her (she’d never read a Marian Keyes book, can you believe it?) and I was suddenly overcome with the urge to re-read it myself. It is my favourite of her books and it has been a few years since I read it. Then I felt guilty, because I have loads of new books languishing unread on my TBR. Then I thought how ridiculous that was, I read for pleasure so, if I want to re-read an old favourite, why not? Book blogging can warp your mind sometimes!
This is no small book. At 625 pages, it takes a commitment of time, but it is oh so worth it. As I went through, I remembered exactly why Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors, and why I am not alone in adoring her. I think it also came along at an auspicious time in my own writing journey, to give me some insights into writing that I need to be able to move my own project forward.
This book is an exploration of addiction through the eyes of Rachel, who can’t see that she has a drug problem until her friends and family stage an intervention and force her into a treatment facility. We follow her progress through all the steps of her recovery, and it is an eye-opening, painful and emotional experience.
And this is the genius of Marian’s writing. It is completely truthful. She doesn’t shy away from showing things exactly the way they are. She writes with complete emotional honesty, without pulling any punches or shying away from things that are painful and laying everything bare. her writing isn’t sugar-coated or glittery, but it is real and her readers respond to this. They can see truths about the human experience, their experience, reflected back at them.
Rachel is not a very likeable character for most of the book. She is monstrously selfish and self-involved, refusing to see her issues and blaming everyone but herself, but Marian manages to make us care what happens to her by giving us glimpses of why she is the way she is and hints that maybe she is capable of redemption and worth rooting for and we can see it is important that we are shown the truth of what addiction does to a person. She is also not the stereotype of a drug addict, so we are left thinking, ‘there but by the grace of God,’ which draws us in to the story even more. It is a masterclass in hooking the reader and exactly the kind of thing I wish I could do with my own writing. Well, we can all dream!
Anyone who had read any of Marian’s non-fiction writing or follows her on Twitter will know that this is how she is in real life too. She is very honest about the struggles she has had herself with alcohol dependency and depression and is a vocal advocate of the things that she believes in. Plus, she is absolutely hilarious. All of this spills through and is very evident in her writing, which is a clear reflection of who she is. If you gave me an anonymously bound book written by Marian Keyes, I would know who the author was immediately, her voice is so strong and distinctive. I have been through a phase recently of not making much progress on my book for various reasons, one of which is that I am afraid my author voice is too light to do justice to the serious subject matter it covers, and that my prose style is too bare. Reading this book has reminded me of the value of being honest and open and authentic in your writing. Of just letting your voice speak out and putting the passion for your story and the truth of your experience into your book. This is what we, as readers, respond to. It shines from the pages and lights up the work, drawing the reader to it.
Re-reading this book has been one of the most useful experiences I have had this year and I feel motivated to crack on and be more Marian in my own writing – except the Yorkshire version, of course!
You can get a copy of Rachel’s Holiday here.
About the Author
Marian Keyes’ international bestselling novels include Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There?, This Charming Man,The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Mystery of Mercy Close and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Two collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet and Further Under the Duvet, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband.
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