Rachel’s Holiday – Marian Keyes (25th Anniversary Edition)

Meet Rachel Walsh.

She’s been living it up in New York City, spending her nights talking her way into glamorous parties before heading home in the early hours to her adoring boyfriend, Luke.

But her sensible older sister showing up and sending her off to actual rehab wasn’t quite part of her plan.

She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, spa treatments and celebrities going cold turkey – plus it’s about time she had a holiday.

Saying goodbye to fun and freedom will be hard – and losing the man who might just be the love of her life will be even harder.

But will hitting rock bottom help Rachel learn to love herself, at last?

Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is one of the most successful Irish novelists of all time. Though she was brought up in a home where a lot of oral story-telling went on, it never occurred to her that she could write. Instead she studied law and accountancy and finally started writing short stories in 1993 “out of the blue.” Though she had no intention of ever writing a novel (“It would take too long”) she sent her short stories to a publisher, with a letter saying she’d started work on a novel. The publishers replied, asking to see the novel, and once her panic had subsided, she began to write what subsequently became her first book Watermelon, published in 1995.

To date, the woman who said she’d never write a novel has published 13 of them: Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, Rachel’s Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There, This Charming Man, The Brightest Star in the Sky , The Mystery of Mercy Close, The Woman Who Stole My Life, and The Break.  Her books have all been bestsellers around the world, with a total of over 30 million of her books sold to date in 33 languages. Anybody Out There won the British Book Awards award for popular fiction and the inaugural Melissa Nathan Prize for Comedy Romance. This Charming Man won the Irish Book Award for popular fiction. Marian’s latest book Grown Ups is publishing in hardback and eBook in February 2020.

The books deal variously with modern ailments, including addiction, depression, domestic violence, the glass ceiling and serious illness, but always written with compassion, humour and hope.

In 2009, Marian experienced the start of a major depressive episode, and had to stop any work. Eventually she found that baking cakes helped her survive; and in 2012, she published Saved by Cake, which combines recipes with autobiography.

As well as novels she has written short stories, and articles for various magazines and other publications. She has published three collections of her journalism, titled Under the Duvet  and Further Under the Duvet, now collected in one volume under the title Under the Duvet: Deluxe Edition, and donated all royalties from Irish sales to the Simon Community, a charity which works with the homeless. In 2016 Marian published a new collection of essays, Making It Up As I Go Along.

She was born in Limerick in 1963, and brought up in Cavan, Cork, Galway and Dublin; she spent her twenties in London, but is now living in Dún Laoghaire with her husband Tony. She includes among her hobbies reading, movies, shoes, handbags and feminism.

My Review:

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Rachel’s Holiday which I personally find hard to believe as a) I remember reading it so vividly when it was first published and b) I’m still convinced I am 28 and I know I couldn’t read at the age of 3.

If you follow my blog you may notice that I really don’t re-read books and off the top of my head can only think of 2 other books I’ve reread in all my 50+ years, but when I saw that Marian had written a sequel to Rachel’s Holiday called Again, Rachel which is being published on 17th February 2022, I knew that I HAD to re-read this book NOW.

Picking up Rachel’s Holiday again I naturally had a few reservations; would it be as good 25 years later? will it seem out-dated? has my taste in literature changed now that I’m older? was it really THAT good last time? – You’d be delighted to know that the answers are YES, NO, NO and YES!

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Marian’s books – this is probably the best one to start with and the good news is that you then have a back catalogue of approximately 18 books to read after.

Meet Rachel Walsh – a 27 year old Irish woman living in New York. She’s the middle sister of 5 girls and has been away from Ireland for the past 8 years. Rachel lives with her best friend Brigit, has a boyfriend called Luke, has a job at a hotel when she can be bothered to turn up and spends every waking minute partying, off her head on drink and drugs. After an accidental overdose she wakes up in hospital to see one of her sisters there ready to take her back to Ireland for a stint in a rehab centre.

Obviously Rachel doesn’t understand why she needs to go to rehab – she’s not an addict after all. Everyone takes cocaine before work, 8 valium at night and a bottle of JD to wash it down, but humouring her family and looking forward to 2 months of relaxing with famous celebrities and getting a daily seaweed massage at The Cloisters Rehab Centre Rachel reluctantly agrees to go.

There is NOTHING funny about addiction, but Rachel’s Holiday is bloody hilarious. This is a book that, unlike me, hasn’t aged at all – in fact I think it’s actually more relevant today. Rachel’s denial to accept her addiction and her often warped view of life was so believable that at times I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with her.

The chapters based at The Cloisters when Rachel is in group therapy are both raw and brutal when dealing with Rachel’s addictions but she is such a phenomenal character that you just want her to face her demons and have a happy ending.

Rachel’s Holiday is a wonderful tale of family and love, trying to fit in, trying to find your own way in life and learning to love yourself as others do.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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