Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes

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Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: If you like Marian Keyes novels you will probably like this collection of various journalistic pieces. Being in your early thirties (and still missing being in your mid-twenties); having no children and living and working in a significant metropolitan area would probably help.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 304 Date: June 2002
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-0141007472

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Marian Keyes is a very successful author of chick-lit, at least some of it with a serious bent. Her novels are simple, long, readable stories concerned with "emotional landscapes"(in her own words). They mix humour and serious matters, with a reasonably good ear for dialogue and something that might develop into an original voice and an apt hand for satirising social mores. One day.

Under the Duvet is not a novel, though. It is a collection of journalistic pieces written by Keyes for various publications, mostly Irish. There are also a few previously unpublished texts included.

I read the book in one evening and this was probably my greatest mistake: these pieces were not designed to be read all-in-one-go and my experience was probably damaged by the way I approached the book. But it is a book, right? A book could be expected to be read in one go and giving me instructions to "dip in" is frankly a bit patronising. So I didn't dip in, I lurched in to be honest I really, really struggled towards the end. To give Ms Keyes another chance, I re-read some of the pieces the next day and they read better in single or double doses.

Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing then? Qualified yes to this question. Yes, they definitely should have stayed where they were and what they were: gently enjoyable, light pieces with some reasonably funny self-depreciating humour and occasional half-sharp social observation.

The main problem is probably the fact that with this type of writing you have to feel some affinity with the author (or author's persona, but as Keyes claims to write about herself, I will dispense with the persona business and assume that she really does). And the problem is that I neither like her nor belong to her social grouping. And thus what she means as light and frothy but perhaps somehow meaningful I find either sad or silly.

She tries hard. She makes numerous self-depreciating jokes and some of them are even funny. She does show some compassion and some understanding of the world about her. But why does she moan so much? If you read the pieces in succession you will notice that at least half of them (or that is the impression I got anyway) are just whines about things that certainly don't warrant a several-hundred word column.

Her travel pieces were particularly annoying, especially the way she wrote about Vietnam, exhibiting astonishing lack of sensitivity and understanding of the place and freely admitting that despite the undisputed suffering of Vietnamese (2.5 million dead in the war) she was still more moved by the Holywood-processed plight of American G.I.'s.

She comes across as slightly obsessed with looks, especially her size; shoes, and many a thing concerning so-called 'style'. The shoe stuff is the biggest personal put-off (I hate shoes). She also seems to be very concerned with social acceptance and how she is perceived by others and 'what people would say'. I think the idea was to make such attitudes and behaviours funny but to me they are rather sad. It doesn't mean that I am never concerned about social acceptance or my appearance but why (apart from the obvious making-a-living motivation) excessively write about it in public.

The final part of the book (excerpt from a novel) confirms what I was kinda' suspecting all along: she is not a brilliant writer. Her character(s) seem to speak in the same voice as she does and that is never a very good sign.

As you can probably guess by now, I didn't particularly like it. It generated a few chuckles and one thoughtful moment but all these were definitely outweighed by groans.

Each of the pieces would probably work quite nicely as a light piece in a magazine, it's the critical mass of them that is to some extent responsible for the bad impression I had.

If you like Marian Keyes' novels you will probably like this book. I would risk saying that if you like more serious chick-lit you would like it as well. Being in your early thirties (and still missing being in your mid-twenties); having no children and living and working in London or another significant metropolitan area would probably help.

Buy Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes at Amazon.com.


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