The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 516 pages, 2004

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: Marian Keyes is the author that got me hooked on chick-lit for my fluff reads.

Synopsis: In three loosely linked stories, the narrative hops between events organizer Gemma, whose father has walked out on a thirty-five year marriage, leaving her to deal with her hysterical mother and rendering her unable to have a life of her own; Jojo, a literary agent who’s trying to swing million-dollar-deals for her authors while juggling an affair with her married boss; and Lily, a novelist living beyond her means while she tries to write her second book and wrestles with the guilt of the father of her child, Anton, being Gemma’s ex-boyfriend. All of the women are faced with confronting another woman who’s in some way a disruptive force in their lives, but do they want to (or can they) deal with the other women’s sides of the story?

Why you should read this book: Pretty typical chick-lit, but Keyes has never been afraid to throw a healthy dose of darkness (divorce, poverty) in among the fluff. All of the women are faced with interesting moral decisions that have some unexpected results as they try to balance what they want with what’s best. Keyes is always good for a few good giggles as she places her characters in cringingly embarrassing situations. With typically sly wit, Keyes also makes some tongue-in-cheek comments about Lily’s first book being too crowd-pleasingly sugary – but best-selling – a clear jab at critics of the chick-lit genre.

Why you should avoid this book: Oh, the shock, a trio of women in a chick-lit book with connections to the publishing industry. Is it too much to ask for a little freshness from book to book? There’s an unpleasantly dull spot in the middle of the book that may leave you reluctant to keep going until it picks up again. Oddly, and for no apparent reason, Keyes lets Lily and Gemma have first-person narratives while Jojo’s story is told in the third person. A good read if you don’t have expectations of originality.

Opening paragraph:

When I first got the call, I thought he’d died. Two reasons. One: I’d been to a worrying number of funerals over the past while – friends of my parents and, worse again, parents of my friends. Two: Mam had called me on my mobile; the first time she’d ever done that because she persisted in the belief that you can only call a mobile from a mobile, like they’re CB radios or something. So when I put my phone to my ear and heard her choke out ‘He’s gone,’ who could blame me for thinking that Dad had kicked the bucket and that now it was only her and me.

Fabulous quotes:

It was one of the worst things that had ever happened to me. It was a little like the time I had been mugged. After reading it my ears began to hum as though I were about to faint, then I sprinted to the loo and sicked up my breakfast. (Perhaps by now it’s clear that I am the feeble type who becomes ill after most upsets.)
Being a bleeding-heart liberal, I was an Observer reader and it was particularily painful being attacked by an organ that I respected. If it had been the Torygraph, I could have laughed and said, well what do you expect. Actually, perhaps I might not have laughed because being slagged off in front of the whole world is never funny. But I could have called them fascists and thus tried to discount their opinions.
Frequently, I had read bad reviews of other people’s books, films, and plays but I had always assumed they must deserve them. I did not deserve this and this so-called Alison Janssen had just misunderstood me.

The following day I was pale and subdued. I’d had a drunken row in the street. I’d committed a sex act in a taxi – at least I’d tried but the driver had asked me not to. And I’d slept with a man who called his nether regions, ‘Uncle Dick and the twins.’ What he’d actually said was, ‘Uncle Dick and the twins reporting for duty, sir.’

Also recommended: Cupid & Diana by Christina Bartolomeo; Femme Fatale by Wendy Holden; Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann.

Also by this author: Anybody Out There?; Further Under the Duvet; Cracks in My Foundation; Watermelon; Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married; Rachel’s Holiday; Last Chance Saloon; Angels; Sushi for Beginners; Under the Duvet.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Check out Keyes’ website for an unpublished short story, The Seven Deadlies.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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