“ Author: Marian Keyes / Genre: Fiction / Narrator: Niamh Cusack „
I picked up a copy of the audio book of Rachel’s Holiday at a service station. It had a nice bright cheery cover, and some encouraging blurb about a twenty something woman with size eight feet and a party lifestyle, rather Bridget Jones I thought. I had a long trip ahead, so it sounded like the perfect bubble gum listening I need on the M25. It started out well enough. Niamh Cusack has just the right lilting Irish tones to make the miles melt away. Rachel is a Dubliner in New York, living the high life, partying night and day and having the best time. Then, due to a silly misunderstanding about a scribbled note and some sleeping tablets her family declare her an addict and seek treatment. The light cheery tone continued, as Rachel submitted to her families requests and agreed to a stay in a ‘Priory’ style re-hab centre back home in Eire. Told in the first person it is easy to relate to Rachels life and circumstances. As re-hab progresses I found it painful to listen. Tears pricked my eyes as I heard Rachels description of group meetings and the addicts who surround her. Anyone whose life has been touched by addiction will be able to write the responses for Rachel and her new chums as they scrabble to differentiate themselves from the addicts around them. How they rage against the insanity of being judged by friends who are at least as bad as they are. Then the pathetic search for people to blame. If it wasn’t so desperately sad it would be funny, but Marian Keyes skill is to make it funny. Even as the sickening, miserable gut wrenching guilt, depression and feelings of helplessness creep in you can find humour in the way the addicts relate to each other. Anyone who has ever found themselves in such a situation can finish the sentences of the characters as they explain the difference between the money they found or borrowed and the despicable actions of the addicts who steal. The st eady realisation that not all addicts are shuffling bag ladies and screaming mad men is interesting as Rachel recognises the problems of the people sharing her ‘holiday’ home, and Keyes does a great job of making the characters’ suffering real and very vivid. I did find this book to be incredibly well written, and I guess Marian Keyes has had a great deal of contact with addicts as she writes very sensitively, not in a patronising, or even sympathetic tone, but showing great empathy for addicts and those whose lives their addiction blights. You may find more than a little recognition of your own behaviour, or that of friends, family or colleagues in this book, if so there will be sadness amongst the laughs. If I had any negative criticism of the book I would say that it all ties up a little too neatly for me, but I was listening to the book, and so expected some abridgement. The audio book runs at three hours. This certainly wasn’t the laugh a minute tale of singleton life that I expected, but it was a superb, moving description of life defined by addiction.