“The Brightest Star in the Sky” by Marian Keyes

June 29, 2021


Prolific Irish writer, Marian Keyes’s novel, “The Brightest Star in the Sky”, illuminates for us the complexities, intricacies and subtle and not so subtle nuances of the inner lives and behaviour of a varied cross section of the human race – at it’s best and worst.

The novel is set in contemporary Dublin, Ireland, and centres on the residents of 66 Star Street (a Georgian house divided into flats). On the ground floor resides young and seemingly optimistic married couple Matt and Maeve. Something hidden and murky lurks sinisterly beneath their seemingly pleasant enough existence, and they go out of their way to avoid facing this dark imposter at all costs. Every day the couple compulsively perform a daily “Act of Kindness”, and each night lie side by side in bed to compose their “trio of blessings” for that day. And yet, even these earnestly hopeful activities cannot erase the shadows in their lives.

In another flat, we find 39 year old Katie. Her frenetic life as head publicist at Apex Entertainment Ireland is propelled even faster when she encounters and subsequently starts going out with the handsome, focused and intensely obsessive workaholic Conall. There is an undeniably strong magnetic force between them, but can Katie overlook the fact that work takes number one position in Conall’s life, and can Conall overcome his workaholic tendencies to accommodate Katie more fully into his busy existence?

Moving on, we have in another flat a young woman called Lydia, and her long suffering flatmates, Andrei and Jan (two Polish immigrants).  Andrei and Jan barely tolerate Lydia, and she them. Spikey and abrasive, Lydia tells it like it is to anyone who will listen, and doesn’t care who she offends as a result.

Lastly, we have the elderly Jemima and her inwardly hostile dog, Grudge (who is aptly named it turns out). Jemima spends her time on the phone parading as “Mystic Maureen” on the “Celtic Psychic Line” where she dispenses advice to the vulnerable and those hungry for anything to give their lives an anchor, however arbitrary. Jemima and Grudge live a simple life at 66 Star Street, but although largely unobserved by the other tenants, Jemima knows more about what is going in the building than the others realise.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters in this novel are a mix of endearing and abhorrent, and a strong sense of realism and heartbreaking observations pervade this book. Marian Keyes illustrates for us that underneath it all, we are mostly all attempting to live our best lives, with whatever cards we have been dealt.

You will cheer for the characters’ successes and be saddened by their many trials, and in the end be uplifted into believing that if this hodge podge of widely varying people can get their lives sorted, then anything is possible.

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