Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes

Twenty-five years after the publication of Rachel’s Holiday, her best-loved novel, Marian Keyes has written a sequel. Much has changed in that quarter of a century, not just in the life of recovering addict Rachel Walsh — last seen in a passionate clinch in New York. But also for Keyes. In 1997 the Irish author was a rising star of commercial fiction, branded as chick lit and presumed of female-only interest. Today, the multimillion best-selling Keyes has a following far wider than her devoted readership thanks to her humorous social media posts (243,000 Twitter followers, 145,000 on Instagram) and Radio 4 shows. Recently, she was profiled by the BBC’s Imagine.

Keyes has earned the adulation. Her witty, warm, sharply observant books have brought company and comfort to millions, without swerving the mess of life or writing off aging women. Subjects tackled include addiction, Ireland’s abortion laws and suicidal depression.

Told in the first-person, in Keyes’s signature gabfest style, Rachel is now a fortysomething counselor at the Cloisters, the rehab facility where she was once an (initially recalcitrant) resident. Having overcome tragedy and heartbreak her steady life is thrown by the reappearance of her ex, Luke Costello.

Newcomers should start with its predecessor. For existing fans, this garrulous, fast-paced read offers the joy of a reunion with not just Rachel, but the rambunctious Walsh clan (Claire, contemplating swinging; hard-edged Helen showing her softness) still crazy, gag-slinging and fizzing with craic after all these years. A tad overlong, but an entertaining, growingly poignant contemporary tale.

Patricia Nicol is a freelance journalist and a columnist for The Sunday Times and the Daily Mail