Books

WHAT BOOK would writer Marian Keyes take to a desert island?

WHAT BOOK would writer Marian Keyes take to a desert island?

  • Marian Keyes is currently reading The Survivors by Jane Harper 
  • She would take The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson to a desert island 
  • Writer said The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton first gave her the reading bug 

…are you reading now?

The Survivors by Jane Harper is just published and, oh my God, I love her work — wonderful characterisation, great writing and a strong sense of place.

I get so excited every time a new one is published. Her first novel, The Dry, came out only four years ago and since then there’s been Force Of Nature and The Lost Man.

Her books are all set in Australia and the landscape is as important as the characters — The Dry and The Lost Man take place in the desert interior and I honestly felt as if I were there.

The Survivors is set in Tasmania and the sea is a constant presence. It’s an intriguing, gripping and brilliant book. Jane Harper never disappoints.

Irish writer Marian Keyes (pictured) would take The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson to a desert island

…would you take to a desert island?

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson. I’m late to the Eva Ibbotson party and I’m so grateful to have discovered her as her books are utterly delightful.

Ibbotson was an Austrian Jew who came to live in England in the 1930s and she’s written for both children and adults.

The Secret Countess is a fairy tale for grown-ups: after the Russian revolution, a penniless countess gets a job as a housemaid in a stately home in England, where she catches the eye of the lord of the manor.

It’s unapologetically romantic but it’s also extremely funny, wry, dry and witty — and hugely uplifting. Her books are getting me through lockdown.

…first gave you the reading bug?

The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton. I was about six I think and I cannot tell you how much I fell in love.

Why any child would want to go to a boarding school is beyond me but at the time it sounded like the best thing ever. The book kick-started an Enid Blyton frenzy that went on for several years and ignited a love of reading that’s lasted my whole life. After Enid Blyton I moved on to P .G. Wodehouse, then Jilly Cooper.

Marian said The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton (pictured) gave her the reading bug

I panic if I don’t have a book with me and I’ve often said that reading was my first addiction.

…left you cold?

This is a really difficult one because reading is an entirely subjective experience — just because something didn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean others won’t love it and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad book.

Most writers work very hard and it sits badly with me to publicly slate anyone.

Because there’s no real chance of harming the author, I’ll admit that a book I really couldn’t get on with was Persuasion by Jane Austen (Cue: aghast gasps across the land.)

It was one of the prescribed texts in my last year at school and the process of dissecting the text and pulling apart the prose removed any reading enjoyment.

In fact, for years afterwards I couldn’t read any Jane Austen. In recent years though that’s been remedied and I’m now a fully-on-board, paid-up Jane Austen fan.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes is out now in paperback (Michael Joseph £8.99).

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