Book review: About Face

My Tuesdays have been made complete in recent months by the addition of the Irish Times Women’s Podcast. Ireland has been crying out for its own ‘Women’s Hour’ and this really hits the spot for me. Usually presented by Kathy Sheridan, it’s just the right mix of politics philosophy and fun that I’d expect from chat with my best friends when we’re all on our A game.

This week’s one, however, was a little different.  Marian Keyes (I love Marian, I have been reading her books since I was a teenager and they did a lot to inform my world view) interviewed Irish Times beauty writers Laura Kennedy and Aisling McDermott, who have just written a new book called ‘About Face’ on beauty.

about face

Aisling (along with her sister Kirstie) was behind, a site I loved for its honesty and directness. It’s ok to be interested in makeup and beauty but also to not believe 99% of the crap cosmetics companies come out with, was the main message, one I wholeheartedly endorse after years of press releases promising miracles.

About Face is a great evolution of what Aisling has been doing for years – much like it’s the beauty book for people who wouldn’t normally buy a beauty book. You should judge some books by their cover, because marketing people spend so long trying to figure out what kind of person they want to buy this book. This book will be bought by people who won’t buy a beauty book with pink sparkles or a Kardashian on the front. It’s smart and witty and the black and white striped cover reflects that. It’s on my Christmas list for quite a few people.

Back to the podcast though, and the chats. Laura writes in the Irish Times not just about beauty, but about dealing with her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. Her writing is brittle and raw, and it can be hard to read. She spoke to Marian about her decision to write about something so personal.

When Marian asked Aisling about her personal life is where the shock came for me. I had no idea Aisling has MS. I’ve been following her on Twitter for years, have laughed at her pieces and followed her recommendations. But I never knew what she was going through, or that she has recently had shockingly bad news on her condition.


I was utterly shocked listening to Aisling describe how her consultant has talked about palliative care. She is incredible. Her situation is horrible, but she has worked so hard to produce this beautiful piece of work while faced with a terrible ordeal.

What really struck me was how the conversation, like most chats between a group of women, veered from that most incredibly serious, personal and profound, back to the Kardashians, contouring and dirty faces.

I love it. This is what real life is like, and it’s what women’s conversations are like. Mixing the profound and the mundane, the silly and the utterly serious. More please.

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