Wine, heartbreak and humour - even if nothing much happens
Memoir: Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton, Random House, €15.99
First up some housekeeping: I am a long-time fan of Dolly Alderton, whose first book, Everything I Know About Love, a collection of personal essays charting her rollicking good-time 20s fuelled with wine and heartbreak, is landing just in time for Valentine's Day. These personal essays from the popular journalist and podcaster will definitely appeal to the hordes of young, single women who will presumably be celebrating 'Galentine's Day' with pals and Prosecco. Whether there's much here for anyone over the age of 30, however, is debatable.
It takes a certain brass neck to write a memoir at 28, and I should know, I did it. When writing my book (Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown, still available in all good bookshops) I agonised over the optics of writing a memoir when life had barely even begun to have its way with me. I'd wager Alderton entertained no such concerns, or else she might have instead attempted a fictionalised version of her not-too-out-of-the-ordinary coming of age tale. While Everything I Know About Love touches on some interesting themes - Alderton's passionate relationship with booze, her love affairs, a period of disordered eating and her toxic jealousy when her best friend announces her engagement, interspersed with amusing listicles and recipes for scrambled eggs - it is a shade light on plot.
Alderton's own persona is the main hook of the story. Her likeability has sustained a career largely consisting of first person columns on dating, love, career and beauty advice for the thinking woman. In reading her bubbly prose, it's inevitable you want to be in Alderton's gang and Alderton's devotion to said gang is the true love story that wends through these pages.
Alderton has a knack for giving a rom-com feel to such ho-hum occurrences as being broke before payday or getting pissed on a Friday night. Alderton's 'hood, Camden Town, has the cosy glamour of a Richard Curtis film, while the all-girl houseshare is an adorable almost-transplant of Hannah and Marnie's co-dependent set-up in Girls. Episodes of mildly hedonistic nights veering into crushing hangovers are surprisingly entertaining in Alderton's hands, however the story never really gets off the ground. The fact is that while Alderton is smart and witty and a hugely successful writer - she was a story producer on Made in Chelsea and has written and directed two short films - not a whole lot has happened to her just yet. Alderton makes up for this with admirable honesty about tricky subjects such as feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, insecurities about her body and fallow periods in her career, all refreshing admissions in the current age of filtered perfection.
Other writers have tackled their 20s to great effect through their unapologetic candour - think Bryony Gordon's The Wrong Knickers - and Everything I Know About Love achieves that same authenticity but, thankfully, Alderton doesn't let the more mundane facts of life spoil the party. Everything I Know About Love is more a life entertainingly re-imagined through the medium of chick-lit than a memoir as such. The final chapters are so steeped in rosy nostalgia, it is easy to forget that the author is reminiscing about events from just a couple of years ago.
The 20s is a decade of transformation and Alderton charts her own with wry humour and a lot of heart. Alderton learns everything she knows about love by way of unsuitable men (there's an intriguing interlude with a sociopathic guru), burnout and therapy, before the realisation that her greatest, most enduring love affair has been with her female friends. By the end of the book, we leave Alderton poised on the cusp of her 30s and presumably with more journeys of self-discovery ahead of her. I look forward to the next instalment.