Review: Rachel’s Holiday

Rachel's Holiday
Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I waffled between five and four stars for all of ten seconds before deciding on five, simply because of my sheer inability to be rational about this novel.

I fell in love with Rachel, and I have no idea why. If I hadn’t picked this up at a library sale when my impulse control was at it’s lowest, I wouldn’t have it at all. There’s literally nothing about this book, from the cover, to the genre, to the jacket copy to make me think I’d enjoy it, or that it was my kind of book. Because it really isn’t.

In fact, my first thought on opening the book on a whim a year after putting it on my shelf (not an uncommon phenomenon) was “oh, nice typeface. Rachel’s story was convincing and compelling, if only because the reader is so well grounded in her mental state—she’s all over the place emotionally and never seems to notice, but you still get a sense of who she really is under all the drugs. And even knowing that she’s in more trouble than she thinks she is, Rachel’s done a thorough job of hiding from herself, so as bad as it is, you’re almost as shocked as she is when confronted.

Even that wouldn’t be enough to give in five stars in my mental rating system, but when Rachel is forced to remember her early childhood, I abruptly found myself in tears. I haven’t connected so strongly to a character in I don’t know how long. And I don’t know why it’s Rachel, either. If I were anyone in this novel, I’d be Margaret, the ‘brownose’* But for Rachel, I spent much of the second half of the novel in tears for her, and was so proud of her recovery. Bizarre, but this unexpected total empathy is exactly why I read, and I haven’t experienced it for a while.

*I’ve never even heard the term before in this context.

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