I never expected to buy a book by Marian Keyes. I tried to read one of her fiction works once; I was a young, keen, library assistant, wanting to gain an insight into the most popular books in our catalogue, and Keyes’ output certainly fit into that category. I didn’t get very far, though. This isn’t a slight on her writing, which is actually very good, but rather just an admittance that I’m a total and utter snob when it comes to chick-lit. It’s an aspect of my personality which makes very little sense, given my complete adoration of all things Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum (if you don’t know Stephanie Plum yet, you should change that. She’s a clumsy, yet sexy, bounter hunter from New Jersey…who doesn’t want a character like that in their life?), but there’s no point in denying it: chick-lit, with its idiotic characters and so-called ‘sparkling’ dialogue, makes me want to go on a book-burning spree. As I said, then, I didn’t expect to buy a book by Marian Keyes. I certainly didn’t expect to fall a little bit in love with one. Turns out life is full of surprises.
‘Saved By Cake’ is, of course, not your typical Marian Keyes book. It is actually a recipe book, the concept of which Keyes developed while going through a pretty serious battle with depression. The book is filled with over 80 recipes, which as the tagline states, are designed to help you ‘bake youself happy’: banoffee cupcakes to beetroot cake, key lime pie to cranberry macaroons, and stacks more in between. The recipes themselves aren’t particularly special, and there’s nothing in ‘Saved By Cake’ which you won’t find in the dozens of other baking books currently saturating the market. What is lovely, though, is the concept. As someone who battles anxiety on a daily basis, I can personally vouch for the fact that baking is a huge help on particularly bad days. The hours of potential worrying that it eats up, the concentration required to get the recipes spot on, and the lovely treats that you (hopefully) get to enjoy at the end makes it an ideal pasttime for those of us in desperate need for distraction, and Keyes clearly understands that completely. Her recipes are, on the whole, simple and accessible, and filled with fun, helpful little suggestions to jazz up even the simplest of creations.
What is most enjoyable, though, is Keyes’ writing. Her willingness to be entirely open and honest about her struggles makes ‘Saved By Cake’ a very unique book, and she manages to write about rather heavy subjects in a very comforting and witty fashion. On top of a lengthy introduction, each recipe comes accompanied with a little anecdote making ‘Saved By Cake’ a book to genuinely enjoy as well as make frequent use of; I am currently working my way through the recipes one by one, and find myself very much looking forward to each new page.
It is also beautifully designed, with large pictures accompanying every recipe (though, admittedly, haters of the colour pink will probably want to stay well away). It may have taken me about a decade longer than the rest of this country’s female population, but finally, I see what the fuss is all about. Keyes is a charming writer, and ‘Saved By Cake’ is one of the most enchanting books, of any genre, that I have come across in a long time. Whatever the state of your mental health, it would be a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.