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Further Under the Duvet will have you cringing, smiling, laughing and sighing

Michelle McGrane

Further Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes
Penguin, R140
July 2005
ISBN 0-718-14792-8

Click on book cover to buy this book now!

I discovered Marian Keyes when I was on a yacht sailing around the coast of Turkey. Her hilarious and poignant debut novel, Watermelon, distracted me from seasickness and prevented me from throwing myself overboard into the murky waters of the Mediterranean to escape the other occupants of the vessel. Ten years later this talented author has seven international best-selling novels under her belt.

Does Keyes mind being called a chick-lit writer? "Well it's not the worst thing that could happen," she remarked in an interview with The Observer. "I've made peace over what I write and I work very hard to do my best for myself and my readers. Having said that, if I do get a bad review I still have to fight the urge to go and burn their house down."

The forty-year-old author has an impish smile, piercing blue eyes, Irish charm and the gift of the gab. She is often compared with Helen Fielding, the creator of the much-loved character Bridget Jones. "We both started writing about the same time," says Keyes. "I think she rocks … I used to read her columns years ago."

This time around, Marian offers readers a more personal side of herself in her collection of articles and short stories, Further Under the Duvet. This follow-up to Under the Duvet contains mostly humorous, tongue-in-cheek, autobiographical pieces about subjects like ill-health, her great love of make-up and her great fear of being trapped on a bus in a foreign country with forty Irish people ("it's the singing").

There are also a few more serious pieces about feminism, mediums and charity trips Keyes has made to Ethiopia and Russia. The author is donating the royalties from the Irish sales of the hardback edition to a charity called To Russia With Love, which works with Russian orphans.

Some of the pieces in Further Under the Duvet are previously unpublished; others have been published in magazines such as Marie Claire, Woman and Home, The Guardian, Abroad, and Cara over the past five years. The articles have been collated in seven sections under the headings Handbags and Gladrags, On the Road, Health and Beauty, Woman to Woman, Friends and Family, But Seriously, and Short Stories.

In her latest book, Marian covers:

Fashion …

I love Prada. Not so much the clothes, which are for malnourished thirteen-year-olds, but I covet, with covety covetousness, the shoes and handbags. Like, I LOVE them. If I was given a choice between world peace and a Prada handbag, I'd dither. (I am not proud of this. I'm only saying.)

Travel …

Wearing an awful lot of clothes, we landed in Moscow. At immigration, I was quite annoyed at how quickly they processed us. Call itself Russia! I wanted to queue, I wanted the authentic experience. &nbps;   Outside in the perishing cold with sleet in the air and dirty slush underfoot, we met Valya, who would be our guide/minder for the trip. She was fresh-faced and blue-eyed, with blonde hair swirled over her ears. As soon as we'd said hello, she told us that her husband had just left her. God, I love Russians. Love them. They'd tell you anything. They do unhappiness with such verve, such style, such passion. As we lugged our suitcase to the car, Valya told me that she had nothing left to live for, but that she would still take care of us on the tour.

Men …

My relationship with men, fraught at the best of times, was further complicated because I half-expected to be investigated by the Boyfriend Police, in order to check I was treating myself with enough respect. Whenever I was heartbroken over a man, I was braced against the Wicked Feminist Witch of the West bursting into my tear-sodden bedroom in her dungarees and Doc Martens and saying, "Hah! That's what you get for hanging around with men. You should have joined the women's collective and none of this would have happened. No more than you deserve, girlie."
Keyes writes as if she is confiding in the reader in her Irish lilt. Her frankness and humour will have you feeling as if you've just made a new friend. She is a witty, charming girly girl whose hobbies include reading, movies, shoes, handbags, make-up and M&Ms. There is no doubt whose side she is on. She's the girlfriend who will let you cry on her shoulder, then cheer you up with a bottle of tequila and a giant slab of chocolate (or three). She can't cook and has to go to her mammy's every Thursday so she gets one hot home-cooked meal a week …

Despite the light, bantering tone of her writing, life has not always been easy for Keyes. She makes no bones about her struggles with her weight and low self-esteem. In the chapter "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" she writes with painful honesty and clarity about her battle with alcoholism and an attempted suicide attempt at the age of 30:

More than ten million copies of my books have been sold worldwide, they're published in thirty-two different languages, I've travelled the globe in the course of my work - but my sobriety is still the most important thing in my life. I know that if I drink again, I might never be able to stop. I got one chance and I treasure it. It's the greatest gift I've ever been given.
If you have pored over Marian Keyes's bestsellers in the past, Further Under the Duvet will have you cringing, smiling, laughing and sighing. It's the perfect book to cuddle up with on a winter evening when you need cheering up.

Further Under the Duvet will be published under the title Cracks in My Foundation in the United States and In Bed with My Doona in Australia. Penguin has also published Nothing Bad Ever Happens at Tiffany's, containing a section of Further Under the Duvet. This little book is part of their Penguin 70s celebration series.

* * *

Marian Keyes was born in Limerick, Ireland, in September 1963. She was brought up in Dublin and spent her twenties in London. She is the author of Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel's Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels and, most recently, The Other Side of the Story. Marian lives in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, with her husband Tony Baines ("Himself").

LitNet: 16 August 2005

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