Marian Keyes

1963- ; b. Cork; moved to Cavan, then Galway, then Dublin; ed. UCD, law; worked for Eastern Health Board; became an alcoholic and moved to London, living on welfare in a tower-block; worked as waitress; employed in accounts dept. of an architectural college; attempted suicide; m. Tony Keyes, Dec. 1995; commenced writing fiction, 1993; entered treatment centre, Jan. 1994; sent her first novel Watermelon to Poolbeg Press on returning to work in London, April 1994; published in 1995, it sold 100,000 copies in the UK and won the W. H. Smith Fresh Talent award; travelled to Los Angeles; issued Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (1996) and wrote Rachel’s Holiday (1998) dealing with addiction, self-loathing and rehab of Rachel Walsh in New York; Sushi for Beginners (2001), deals with homelessness;
wrote Under The Duvet (2001), her collected articles with the proceeds going to Simon Community; issued Angels (2002), a novel set in the Hollywood movie-world; also The Other Side of the Story (2004), on women in the world of publishing, and Anybody Out There? (2006), a novel of loss and grief; The Mystery of Mercy Close (2012) reflectis her personal encounter with depression; issued The Woman Who Stole My Life (2014), regarded as a back-on-form novel; her books have been translated into twenty languages with 70 million sales worldwide; angered by interview with Marian Finucane on RTE, Nov. 2014; Keyes publishes with Poolbeg and latterly with Penguin in the UK; Grown Ups (2020) is about the seemingly glamorous Caseys; she is known for handle serious life-problems with a light touch.

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Fiction (incomplete listing)
  • Watermelon (Dublin: Poolbeg 1995), 600pp.
  • Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married (Poolbeg 1996).
  • Rachel’s Holiday (Poolbeg 1998).
  • Sushi for Beginners (Dublin: Poolbeg 2001).
  • Angels (Dublin: Poolbeg 2002).
  • The Other Side of the Story (Dublin: Poolbeg Press 2004) [q.pp.]
  • Anybody Out There? (2006)
  • The Brightest Star in the Sky (London: Michael Joseph 2009), 400pp.
  • The Mystery of Mercy Close (Adult Viking 2012).
  • The Woman Who Stole My Life (London: Michael Joseph 2014), 534pp.
  • Grown Ups: A Novel (London: Michael Joseph; NY: Doubleday 2020), 550pp.

Under The Duvet (London: Michael Joseph 2001), 272pp.

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[Shirley Kelly,] interview, Books Ireland (April 1996), pp.85-86; biog. details as above; Watermelon (1996), story of Claire, 30-something in London, left by husband James on day her child is born; returns to Dublin; recovers, and confronts returning husband with a surprise; also [Kelly,] interview, Books Ireland (Oct. 2002), pp.239-40.

Bernice Harrison, review of Sushi for Beginners (2001), set in a Dublin women’s magazine office; ‘exuberant and extremely clever writing style […] can be achingly funny one minute and wincingly accurate in her observations the next.’ (Irish Times, Paperbacks [review], 16 June 2001.)

Katy Guest, review of Grown Ups, in The Guardian (7 Feb. 2020): ‘[...] As the pages turn, we learn how the characters’ childhood stories have shaped their adult selves, and how life becomes harder to understand, sometimes, the more you know about it. “None of this was the way love was depicted in movies,” thinks one wife after learning something hurtful about her partner. “In real life when your person disappoints you, you have to re-adjust yourself – and not them – so you can keep loving them.” But should she adjust herself, or is he just a rotter? (Not-much-of-a-spoiler alert: he’s a rotter, and the most thinly drawn character in the novel. Which is a shame, because it would be fascinating to see how Keyes could make readers empathise with a narcissistic bully, if she wanted to.) / There are duff notes – Keyes provides a “newspaper profile interview” with Jessie as a quick cheat sheet to her back story; Ed thinks clunkily about a study that “said that [bulimia] sufferers had similar dopamine abnormalities in their brain to people suffering from cocaine or alcohol addiction”. But far more frequent are the small, insightful asides that tell a whole story in a single sentence: about a parent with dementia who “just faded away, like a picture left in the sun”, or an employer who is very sympathetic about mental health problems as long as they are “proper conditions like bipolar or drug addiction”. / The story inevitably builds like a drum roll to the scene with which it started, and a further conclusion that has happy endings, sad endings and not-endings-at-all – just like adult life. It’s a mature piece of work by an accomplished writer who knows how to make serious issues relatable – and get a few grownup laughs, too.’ [End.] (Available online; accessed 03.09.2023.)

Niamh Donnelly, ‘Grown Ups: he familiar magic of Marian Keyes - Deep understanding of human frailty infuses smart, effortless read’, in The Irish Times (4 Feb. 2020): ’[...] I’m sure there are many readers like me, who turn to Keyes when no one else will do. In fact, there must be a great many, since she’s Ireland’s bestselling living author. We reach for them, like a spouse’s hand, from sun loungers and hospital beds. We tuck them into our schoolbags when we should be studying loftier things. On a dull winter night or in the depths of a hangover, there’s no better cure than a Keyes. / Part of the draw is the unspoken pact she seems to have with her readers. She knows who she’s writing for and we know why we love her. All the things she has secretly promised tend to feature in her books: intricately-drawn characters, a dysfunctional family, lots of riding, snappy dialogue, a teaser followed by a flashback, “sexy mens”, on-the-money descriptions, multiple converging plotlines and unabashed Irishisms – or Keyes-isms. [...] The thing about Keyes is that she gets people. She doesn’t allow a character cross the threshold of her books without excavating their psyche and giving their story all its relevant dimensions. [...] But while we read with our hearts in our mouths, we can trust that all will come good in the end. A happy ending is another clause in the imaginary contract between Keyes and reader. “I would rather never be published again than write a downbeat ending,” she once said. Which may seem sentimental but somehow, she makes it work. Maybe because a happy ending is always possible. Or, because depicting one in a story is, in its own way, subversive, important and worthy.’ (Avaiable online; accessed 0309.2023.)


There is a Marian Keyes website at

Namesake?: A Marian Keyes is senior executive librarian associated with the DLR Lexicon (Dun Laoghaire - online).

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