Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Is Marian Keyes pro-choice?

I finished the latest Marian Keyes book over the weekend. I quite enjoy her plots and her characters, and I like the way she writes about hidden parts of women's lives like domestic abuse, alcoholism, sex, and mental health. For those not familiar with Keyes, she is often classed as "chick lit", dismissively, which I tend to think is a bit unfair, and she's probably the most successful modern Irish author writing today.

Keyes has also been upfront about her own difficulties with depression and addiction, plus actively identifies as a feminist, campaigning with organisations like the Irish equivalent of Women's Refuge to list but one example. Her characters are often strong and independent, both women and men, and the manner in which she deals with issues like sex without love or marriage resonates with my own ideas of a feminist approach to life.

But her latest book has left me with one big niggle; is Marian Keyes pro-choice or not?

(Don't click through unless you want to read several huge spoilers)


Basically my problem is this. The mysterious narrator(s) of The Brightest Star in the Sky are supposed to be souls choosing who their parents will be. Which, if it were true, would rather give the anti-abortionists some pretty Big Material on which to base their restrictive approach to reproductive rights.

Of course the concept itself fails mightily. Why would no soul have chosen Fionn's foster parents, while choosing Katie's awful progenitors? Nevermind outside of the frame of the story, where children are born to abusive parents who have already beaten or even killed earlier children. Why would a supposedly highly intelligent and powerful soul make that choice? It seems to me a ludicrous idea full stop.

But to get back to Marian. The thing is that Keyes is supposedly publicly pro-choice. If you click on this link and scroll right down to the bottom you'll see this quote:
...Marian Keyes is an Irish (and somewhat of a) chick lit author who doesn't write strictly about reproductive rights issues, but she certainly addresses them. In her book Angels, the main character has an abortion, in which she discusses what it meant to have an abortion in a nation where the procedure was illegal. She is also publicly pro-choice and serves as a role model for other Irish women.
Many thanks to a good friend for finding this for me.

If you've read TBSitS I'd appreciate your thoughts - did you find this plot device niggled too? Does it undermine Keye's past commitment to a woman's right to choose?


anna c said...

I haven't read the book, but from the summary it's given it sounds like it's on unwise ground, but I don't think it undermines being pro-choice. Whilst I don't believe a foetus is a person (I don't believe in souls, so that's irrelevent) my pro-choice stance isn't based on that, but women's choice over their own bodies (just as we have a choice not to donate kidneys). If the premise of the book were true, it would probably impact my own decision if I were considering abortion, but not my commitment to abortion rights.

I'd also suspect that there's a lower bar for being pro-choice in a country where abortion is outlawed/very hard to access - probably more people who actively dislike abortion but think the consequences of it being outlawed/want it legal only in extreme circumstances, are likely to identify as pro-choice. I'm not saying this applies to Keyes, but I'm throwing it out there.

Now the things about chosing abusive parents, on the other hand, that really bugs me. Sounds like The Secret for Babies *shudder*

catd said...

From what I recall when reading the book, it wasn't so much that they 'chose' the parents, as they 'came into being' at a predetermined time/place, and that was where the parents were...

Julie said...

anna c, Good point about the possibility of a lower bar for being pro-choice in a place like Ireland, I hadn't considered that at all.

What's The Secret for Babies about? Dare I google it?

catd, that seems to be the case with the second soul/narrator/thingy, but with the first one they are definitely getting a choice from everyone having sex in the right location at the right time. Although now that I type that out that does sound like it would probably restrict them to choosing just one couple, in practicality. Hmmmm.

There is a story told within the book, which Katie is reading to a child of her acquaintance, about a Celtic myth in which Killian (iirc) gets to choose his new parents in his new incarnation.

Maybe Keyes isn't entirely consistent about this line throughout the book, or maybe I've read it skewify!

(Ps have added you to the blogroll, good luck with the blogging)