Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

4/5 stars

With her debut novel Ghosts coming out later this month, I thought I’d take a look at Dolly Alderton’s first book, the breezy Everything I Know About Love.

Dolly Alderton, a writer and podcaster, knows how to craft a compelling narrative around an oft-tackled subject–your twenties. This work has been compared to Bridget Jones’ Diary a lot, a somewhat lazy shorthand for any work that is About Being A Woman (TM), but Alderton’s writing does match Helen Fielding’s approachable and relatable style. She describes growing up in Stanmore, a suburb of London, where her first forays into love consisted of MSN Messenger and ill-informed house parties. We follow Dolly into her university days and her move to London, finding her way as a writer and watching her friends find love while she attempts to navigate her way through relationships and her personal identity.

Alderton’s writing is really funny–I especially loved the chapter interludes skewering wedding and baby shower cliches, exposing the pressure women feel every day to “measure up” to their peers. As I listened to the audiobook for this one, I think Alderton’s delivery adds an extra dimension that you wouldn’t be able to get through reading it alone. The narrative also handles the dark moments–broken engagements, a battle with an eating disorder, the loss of family members–with sensitivity. The whole time I was reading I felt like I was along for Dolly’s ride, integrated with her group of friends and trying to find love.

I think the criticism that Alderton’s privilege comes through in this memoir is valid–a lot of her “stumbled into” writing jobs are waved away as favours and it raised my eyebrows a few times, as did her apartment in Camden (even if Camden was “so 2007” by the time she lived here). But her personality is engaging and her voice is strong, which makes for an enjoyable read even if it does earn its critical lens.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the end, which spoke truth to being a millennial–and how challenging it can be to be a young person today, in an economy where people want to pay you in “experience” and the media then attacks you for not being on the property ladder yet. As the millennial generation passes the baton on to generation Z, Alderton looks forward to entering her thirties with the knowledge of the decade before–and with Alderton’s wise voice, the last half of my twenties feel a little less nervewracking too.


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