Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes review – love and shenanigans in a new Walsh sister story

My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes review – love and shenanigans in a new Walsh sister story

Since she first introduced them to readers in her 1995 debut, Watermelon, Marian Keyes has been drawn repeatedly back to the five Walsh sisters. Having already claimed a novel apiece, now second acts beckon. A couple of years ago, Rachel, the star of Keyes’s breakout bestseller, Rachel’s Holiday, was the focus of a sequel, Again, Rachel. Now it’s the turn of her younger sister.

My Favourite Mistake finds hotshot beauty PR Anna Walsh, who previously survived a car crash that killed her husband, pulling the plug on her glossy Manhattan life. Within a few short chapters, the 48-year-old has moved back to Dublin.

Jobless, homeless and eyeing a dwindling supply of HRT, she leaps at the chance to help save pals Brigit and Colm Kearney’s plans for a luxury coastal retreat in the fictional tiny town of Maumtully. There’s just one catch: helping her defuse local hostility and solve all manner of corrupt shenanigans will be an old acquaintance, Joey Armstrong.

In conversation with fellow novelist Curtis Sittenfeld last year, Keyes discussed menopausal romance in literature. Nodding to the way that writing by women – especially when it’s successful – tends to attract reductive nomenclature, Sittenfeld quipped that this mini-genre-in-the-making might be dubbed “RomMen”.

Here’s hoping not. And yet evolving perceptions of ageing and female desire have certainly created a gap in the market – one that Keyes caters to here with knowing wit, rehabilitating heartless bed-hopper Joey as a therapy-going classical music convert whose sex appeal is only burnished by an edge of vulnerability. The dream midlife romantic interest, in other words.

Anna’s quickening feelings for him are matched for intensity by her relationship with best friend Jacqui, with whom she hasn’t spoken in more than a decade. Toggling back and forth between a thickening plot in “M’town” and regrettable episodes from Anna’s past, Keyes unspools a story of grit, growth and self-acceptance.

There is much to love in My Favourite Mistake, from eye-wateringly comical turns of phrase (what could better capture two particular types of men than “Feathery Strokers” and “Beardy Glarers”?) to Anna’s over-it venting about everything from age-related invisibility to all the time she’s wasted “constructing complaints in a manner which made the fucker-upper still like me. Same with over-apologetic, explanatory emails of refusal.” Overall, there’s a depth to the novel’s modestly proffered insights that make its more escapist elements feel well earned.

It’s not spoiling things to say that whatever else Anna may or may not find in Maumtully, she will win something that’s sure to make many a menopausal woman weak-kneed – not least the author herself, to whom it’s long overdue in snootier literary quarters: respect.

skip past newsletter promotion

Source: theguardian.com