What Keyes possesses that many of her imitators lack is a passionate curiosity about people and an immersion in an oral storytelling tradition that makes her writing comic, convincing and true. Grown Ups has all of this and an almost Austenesque insight into character – if Austen had written about period poverty, the trouble with fast fashion, a precocious 12-year-old who “operated like a union rep for the five youngest cousins” and a straight-talking, sauvignon-drinking asylum-seeker called Perla.
Calamity: The Many Lives of Calamity Jane
"as Karen Jones sets out dismayingly early in her book, the only things that the real-life ‘Calamity Jane’ can with confidence be said to have in common with her legend is that she wore trousers, swore like a navvy and was pissed all the time..."
— The Spectator
The thing about Keyes is that she gets people. She doesn’t allow a character cross the threshold of her books without excavating their psyche and giving their story all its relevant dimensions. College-kid, Ferdia, at first high-minded and insufferable grows in depth as we read on. Our perceptions of inscrutable former womaniser, Johnny, are constantly being flipped. If we’re looking for a baddie, we can concentrate our energies into the loathsome Liam: a once successful sportsman whose weaknesses gradually become more and more pronounced. For me, the sweet and kind couple, Cara and Ed, command the most sympathy.
I am a long-time fan of Keyes's hilarious, alternately heart-warming and heartbreaking, novels. She excels at exploring and unpicking various emotionally difficult but all-too-common scenarios with kindness, humour and wisdom...
Secrets, lies, tension and inappropriate crushes simmer underneath the glossy veneer, eventually bursting out in the most dramatic way. I loved everything about it.
Her fourteenth novel, which means Keyes has been at the top of her game since her mid-1990s debut Watermelon, quite an achievement. This novel has a broader canvas, as the central characters are an extended family, the Caseys: brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam, their respective wives Jessie, Cara and Nell, and assorted children. A seemingly happy family, under the surface swirl darker currents—jealousy, affairs, eating disorders, out of control spending. But, as ever, this is tempered with Keyes' trademark humour and honesty.