Rachel herself remains flawed, gorgeous and real ... Keyes wisely resists the temptation to make Rachel a martyr, or a wise woman who has all the answers. Instead, we watch the characters working together, and probing each other ... Keyes is extraordinarily skilful in the way she presents and explores the theme of addiction, and the ways her characters experience it. We are gently reminded not to judge them, even as they judge each other ... Again, Rachel is a complicated love letter to the human experience. At its heart, it is a story of grief ... Keyes has always been an excellent storyteller but here she is at the peak of her powers, her writing even more honest and vulnerable than usual ... A profound and smart book that will be enjoyed by die-hard fans and new readers alike, Again, Rachel is another novel that I shall be returning to every year.
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 ageing women ... 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.
For fans of the original, who may have been holding their breaths, wondering could the second book measure up to the first, it’s safe to exhale now. Again, Rachel is a superb coda to the book that helped create the writer’s legacy, a serious story told with all of her trademark wit, compassion and deftness of touch ... The scenes in which we see her at work are deeply funny and equally profound set-pieces ... The story is told in the comic voice. It’s a voice that Keyes does so well. She is hands down the funniest writer in the business ... But as usual with a Marian Keyes book...there is always the sense that an emotional sucker punch is coming. And when it does, you find yourself reading a completely different story to the one you thought you were reading a few pages earlier ... Again, Rachel is 'again, Marian' at the very top of her game, showing off the skills that have made her one of the world’s most popular authors – her perfectly tuned ear for dialogue, her deadeye for detail and her empathy for people and the failings that make them human. It’s a big book – the review copy weighed in at a hefty 570 pages – but the story never dips, a testament to her mastery as a storyteller. This is her 17th novel and undoubtedly one of her best. Given the high standards she sets for herself every time – not to mention the challenge of producing a sequel worthy of the iconic original – that is high praise indeed.
Keyes, as ever, is dealing with a plethora of emotionally and psychologically knotty issues ... And yet typically she manages such a lightness of touch, effortlessly segueing from tragedy to comedy ... A novel replete with beautifully well-rounded secondary characters ... Grief also runs through the novel...and it is here that Keyes’s skill at characterisation really shines: each patient is so vividly depicted that the chapters dealing with their therapy meetings are like exquisite short stories ... Again, Rachel has all of Keyes’s trademark wit, humour and whip-smart dialogue, but it’s also a novel teeming with compassion and redemption.
[Keyes'] particular gift is the ability to settle the reader into a comfortable seat, then carry them to the darkest places; to make serious things funny — and moving ... Just because something slips down easily, it doesn’t mean it isn’t strong stuff ... Again, Rachel is not her best work. Keyes’s style — absorbing and pacey, but with a tendency towards exposition and excessive adjectives — is slightly off her usual mark. Her delight in contemporary references, which worked beautifully when she was 35, now land a little wincingly ... On the other hand, it remains refreshing to find a book about a fortysomething woman with a satisfying sex life who is neither villainous nor mad ... She handles with intelligence and humour the issues that the question of long-term addiction recovery throws up: what it means to be an addict decades after your last hit; how the darkest of human experiences might weaken even the strongest resolve. Like the original, this is not a frivolous novel; the moment when the great tragedy of Rachel’s later life is revealed punches out of the pages with a brutality that would leave any self-respecting chick-flicker shaking in their sparkly shoes. But there’s plenty of romance to enjoy too. It’s almost as though good writers can do more than one thing.
[The] new cast filing in to deliver their life stories can feel a little repetitive and formulaic, without the extracurricular activities to flesh out the characters beyond the therapy sessions. Thankfully, however, Keyes has done away with her fondness for writing in dialect, proving she doesn’t need phonetic speech to easily distinguish between different nationalities and backgrounds ... Deeply felt ... Though some readers may find the resolution of Rachel’s recovery storyline a touch too neat, the build-up to that point is expertly crafted, as Keyes delves into what happens when a loss is so overwhelming that your usual support systems stop providing comfort ... That portrait of grief, in particular the challenge it poses to those in recovery, is rendered with great compassion and acute emotional honesty ... Unlike the brisk, lively narration of the earlier books, loaded with the tension of a thriller, Again, Rachel is a more languorous reading experience, and its 600-odd pages take a while to get going.