Meet Rachel Walsh. She has a pair of size 8 feet and such a fondness for recreational drugs that her family has forked out the cash for a spell in Cloisters – Dublin’s answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, gymnasiums and rock stars going tepid turkey – and it’s about time she had a holiday.But what Rachel doesn’t count on are the toe-curling embarrassments heaped on her by family and group therapy, the lack of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and missing Luke, her ex. What kind of a new start in life is this?
Keyes has the ability to approach serious topics with both insight and a humour which enables them to be digested with ease. The passages are so believable they seem autobiographical and so it is no surprise to discover that Keyes suffered from alcoholism and was affected by clinical depression, culminating in a suicide attempt and subsequent rehabilitation in 1995 at the Rutland Centre in Dublin. As part of her therapy, she began writing short stories and was encouraged to write a full length novel, which she did. Watermelon was published the same year. She spoke very candidly about her addiction in an Imagine documentary for the BBC.
More than 35 million copies of her novels have been sold, and her works have been translated into 33 languages. Although many of her novels are known as comedies, they revolve around dark themes often drawn from Keyes’s own experiences, including domestic violence, drug abuse, mental illness, divorce and alcoholism. Keyes considers herself a feminist, and has chosen to reflect feminist issues in many of her books.
Rachel’s Holiday, deals with its serious subject matter in a lighthearted way and it is really a romantic comedy at heart. In between the wit and the plot, Keyes reveals important details about addiction which are also educational such as the fact that addicts often enter their addiction because they are avoiding conflict and indulge in other substances or activities instead.
I would highly recommend reading this book, it is entertaining, educational and informative and she does well to tease out what might otherwise be a more predictable ending. If you love romantic comedies you will love Rachel’s Holiday