13 Mar The not-so holiday of ‘Rachel’s Holiday’ by Marian Keyes
So, if you know me – as in really know me – you’d know that I’ve been a Marian Keyes fan since Anybody Out There was shoved into my hands by a night-staff colleague when I worked for Exclusive Books. I did what I could to make my way through her backlist—never quite making it—till a new one came along. So, as a confession: I do have a few gaps. I think the only set of books I have multiple covers of besides Harry Potter, is Marian Keyes. When her new book Again, Rachel (out now!) was announced I knew I had to get into it ASAP.
About the Book
Meet Rachel Walsh. She has a pair of size 8 feet and such a fondness for recreational drugs that her family has forked out the cash for a spell in Cloisters – Dublin’s answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzies, gymnasiums and rock stars going tepid turkey – and it’s about time she had a holiday.
But what Rachel doesn’t count on are the toe-curling embarrassments heaped on her by family and group therapy, the dearth of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and missing Luke, her ex. What kind of a new start in life is this?
Rachel’s Holiday starts off like the quintessential 90’s rom-com novel (I refuse to call it ‘chick-lit’ and, if you ask me why, I’ll send you my thesis) and it’s got a cookie-cutter plot of a fallen woman (the bildungsroman for the female – bildungsromana, anyone?). Also on display we have the self-deprecating humour which we laugh at but, when those lights go off, we find ourselves identifying with. So, when Rachel Walsh arrives at a rehabilitation centre, a place where she’s convinced she’ll meet celebrities, spend hours by a pool, and eat endless buffets, she discovers she’s made a horrible mistake. And it’s something which she’s angry at herself for.
And yes, as this one started, I found myself feeling disappointed. I remembered Keyes’ writing as the voice of the female. Her stories resonated deep within my soul; yet, here was Rachel constantly bashing her body, behaving childishly, lashing out, hating everyone, while still try so very hard to be liked.
I reflected on Rachel’s character and then, when it finally did hit me… it hit me hard. Rachel is all of us. We do this, us women, we try so unbelievably hard to be liked, desired, and admired; and once I saw this I felt Keyes’ story begin to reveal its true intention. This is a story of addiction, of someone so far gone they’d failed to notice that they were an addict, whose body bashing was an addiction of sorts too. Add to this the binging, the men, the need to never be alone.
Keyes is known for and has talked (and written) about her own addiction to alcohol and so it would make sense she drew on that. Though I don’t know for sure that that’s what happened with Rachel’s Holiday, I like to think this story makes Keyes (her number 1 fan that I am) that much more attainable, more real, more human.
Rachel’s Holiday is a quick read but one populated with those signature laughs which Keyes is famous for. However, once you strip away the humour and those lights go out, watch out for that gut-punch which leaves you face to face with reality and the heartache of addiction and trauma. It’s done so very subtly and wonderfully that you might almost miss it.
So go on, read this one (and why not Keyes’ entire backlist while you’re at it?).
4 out of 5 stars