We're in sore need of a spinsterella but this is not it...
Confessions of a Tinderella: This 20-something's confessional dating book offers little more than Bridget Jones with broadband
As the saying goes, the internet is like trying to get a glass of water from Niagara Falls. And in the search for a soulmate, Tinder is much the same. Users swipe through 1.6 billion profiles a day. Since its inception in 2012, more than 6 billion matches have been made on the dating app, through which users can accept or reject matches they like the look of with a single swipe. It's not just the numbers that make Tinder a game changer - in the US, Time magazine has reported that photographers are now being routinely employed by daters to create professional-looking profiles.
In terms of storytelling, the cut-throat world of Tinder was always going to be a rich seam to mine. And when it came to a book on the same, it wasn't ever a question of if, but when.
First past the post is Rosy Edwards, a 20-something who has chronicled her adventures and misadventures on the dating app.
"She's frugal when it comes to food shopping but is willing to splash out on shampoo," says the book-cover blurb, as though this is some seismic development in girlhood.
Stop me if you think you've heard this one before: Edwards graduates from college, and moves to the big city where she throws herself into London life and starts her uncertain shimmy up the greasy pole of PR. Enjoying Pilates, running and Kate Bush in her spare time, Edwards finds herself in want of a plus-one to share it all with. Despite being very happy being single, Edwards creates a profile on Tinder with a glint in her eye and openness in her heart. Chaos - or at least some pale, gussied-up version of it - naturally ensues.
Sharks patrol these dating waters in what are undoubtedly unsettling times. It takes a person of iron will (and a similarly-clad stomach) to keep their head when it comes to Tinder.
Its co-founder, Justin Mateen, has likened it to the virtual equivalent of standing in a bookshop and doffing your cap (or cocking a snook) at those present. In reality, Tinder is far less genteel than all that. Pitched somewhere between Grand Theft Auto and… well, Auto Trader, Tinder is part video game, part meat market. Collateral damage of the heart and the ego are pretty much a given.
Bookstores are not without these 'adventures of a single girl' titles; in fact, the shelves are groaning with them. Edwards' technology may be up to the minute, but this book, with its gaily told 'reader-I-shagged-him' confessions, is anything but.
By now, and taking Nora Ephron's earliest work as a sort of year dot, we have reached the umpteenth wave of the confessional dating memoir. They have been watered down to the point where they break little new ground. Only a few months ago, Melissa Pimentel attempted to drag the single-gal memoir into the present day with her book, Age, Sex, Location. Using a cross-section of advice books to snag a boyfriend was a nice gimmick, but the results were lacking.
Ironically, the searches of the heartsick and the terminally romantic (or, for that matter, the congenitally cynical) never date. It's an evergreen, timeless trope. So why exactly is the dating memoir stuck, for all intents and purposes, in the last decade? Singledom and dating are, among many other things, life phases fraught with humiliation, loneliness and uncertainty.
There's a certain amount of joyous frivolity and spontaneous fun involved, too… yet most dating tomes only offer one side of the story. So very few of them really get to the nub of the matter. In the main, dating books are self-serving vehicles dressed up as candid accounts. Several of them rely on the velocity and glamour of bar-flying and bed-hopping to propel their tales forward. A word in your shell-likes, ladies: this was interesting once, but no more.
Some American writers have struck the perfect balance: Rachel Dratch, Julie Klausner and Hilary Winston write about their personal lives with the perfect blend of self-deprecation and bald humour. The dispiriting truth is that far too many writers are still in thrall to the anti-heroines of Candace Bushnell and Helen Fielding. We are in sore need of a new spinsterella; someone with spunk, sass and wit, but who is a hairnet and an M&S ready meal away from Grey Gardens territory.
Edwards isn't the heroine we've been holding out for, but to her credit she does attempt to strike the right balance. She doesn't gloss over the crushing disappointments, the blows to the ego or the casual rejections. But there's something about our protagonist's tentative toe-dip into the murky Tinder scene that is hard to buy into or care about. There's nothing extraordinary about her quest; Rosy is an everywoman on the search for what every single girl in London wants.
Mentions of showbiz websites, the 5:2 diet and emojis place the action in the present day; a high-risk strategy that does little to safeguard the book from dating. Add in a parade of interchangeable male suitors and galpals and it becomes hard to care, fast.
Confessions of a Tinderella may have a snappy modern title that'll make the marketeers' job easier, but it is little more than Bridget Jones with a broadband connection. Of course, this may be manna from heaven for some. As holiday reads go, it's a sure-fire winner. It is perfectly light and companionable for the poolside. Like many a first date, it offers a good time… but, ultimately, little more beyond that.
Confessions of a Tinderella
Random House, pbk, 384 pages, €12.99