I once had to spend a month lying on my right-hand side after an eye operation. I couldn’t read, use the internet or watch TV but funnily enough, the days flew by – mainly thanks to the novelist Marian Keyes.
To pass the time, my daughter downloaded hours of audiobooks for me to listen to. And that’s when I discovered the wonderful Keyes. I stopped worrying about my eye as I worked my way through all the books she’d written.
Keyes is an author who puts a smile on your face and makes you think. Her books – my favourites are Last Chance Saloon and The Other Side of the Story – are warm, witty and wise and even when she’s writing about hard-hitting subjects like divorce, depression or alcoholism, she’s never preachy or pious. Her dialogue is true to life and her characters utterly believable.
The Brightest Star in the Sky, her tenth book, is out in paperback this month and like its predecessors blends comedy, high drama and emotional depth.
It’s the story of the eight inhabitants of 66 Star Street, a rambling Dublin townhouse. The top flat is owned by Katie, a music PR who worries about the size of her thighs and whether her hot-shot workaholic boyfriend will ever commit. Below her, two hardworking Poles share a flat with streetwise cabbie Lydia. A sharp-tongued character with endless lists of pet-hates and witty put-downs to passengers who dare to try it on, Lydia deserves a novel all to herself. Some of Keyes’s previous characters have turned up in subsequent books, so I live in hope.
On the first floor there’s Jessica, an octogenarian who lives with her malevolent dog and foster son and gives psychic readings on the phone. Meanwhile the ground floor is occupied by newlyweds Maeve and Matt. On the surface they have everything going for them, so what makes them do random “acts of kindness” to stave off their unhappiness?
The novel also features a mysterious visitor who keeps watch over the inhabitants, emerging every so often to “rattle around” their secrets. In less skilled hands, introducing a magic Puck-like creature to the proceedings could have proved disastrous, but Keyes makes it work. And how can you not love a writer who comes up with one-liners like “never trust a man with two mobile phones” and “there’s not much in life that can’t be fixed by cake?”
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes is published by Penguin at £7.99.