This is one of the books I was so excited about reading in 2018. To be honest, I don’t know why – until I heard about it, I didn’t know who Dolly Alderton was; I didn’t know she was a journalist, I didn’t listen to her podcast, and I didn’t follow her on social media. But there was something about the subject matter and definitely something about the cover which made me want to get it as soon as possible. (And it is such a beautiful cover isn’t it?)
A spot-on, wildly funny and sometimes heart-breaking book about growing up, growing older and navigating all kinds of love along the way
When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.
Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton’s powerful début weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age – while making you laugh until you fall over. Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.
A lot has been written about millennials and millennial love especially. We were one of the first generations to have a massive technological parent helping to raise us and I find reading about the impact (good and bad) of that really interesting. And it’s also probably why I was hooked from the first page of Everything I Know About Love – Dolly starts by writing about MSN.
MSN was an instant messaging platform everyone I knew used in the age of clunky text messaging on Nokia 3210s. I would arrange to ‘talk’ on it with my friends while at school, run home, fight with my Dad for the laptop – we only had one laptop which we all had to share – and then spend the evening talking with the people I just left.
For Dolly it was almost exactly the same except for one thing: she went to a girls school and MSN was her way of discovering boys. I did not and this might be why she used MSN to explore and flirt while I used it to write elaborate and very funny retellings of the fairy tales starring me and my friends (no joke, I recently read them and they were hilarious. Also I was always the villain, which I greatly appreciate to this day).
Apart from the instant recognition of MSN, it was where Dolly lived which also had me hooked. I was born and raised in Brent and next door was the Borough of Harrow and my parents would take me to the libraries there every weekend (Sister and I also went to the ones in Brent). Stanmore Library was one of my favourites and in school I soon met people who lived in Stanmore. They were all Indian. My state school was full of high-achieving Indian students.
Dolly grew up in Stanmore. Her Stanmore was white, and had a large Jewish community. It amazed me when I read the book that this was the case: the Stanmore I saw and knew was full of Indians. The large Jewish community completely passed me by. And this was the second time when reading Everything I Know About Love where it struck me how different my life was to Dolly’s.
My thoughts on Dolly’s book hasn’t been influenced by this – we are the same age, grew up in the same part of London yet had wildly different upbringings and experiences – I just wanted to point it out because it struck me over and over again as I read her beautiful prose.
She writes with gentleness and insight about her experiences with boyfriends, being dumped, friendships, issues with food, and getting shit-faced drunk. Being a young woman is hard and Dolly captures that so well. There are vignettes spread throughout where the very worst and funniest aspects of being a millennial are poked fun at. These bits had been laughing with tears running down my face. One such part was an invitation to a baby shower and it is the kind of invitation I want to write if I ever find myself pregnant and needing to celebrate. Her silliness was infectious!
I expected this to be a book about romantic love with a partner, and yes there is a fair amount of that. But Dolly’s love, her true love seems to be what she feels for her friends. She truly loves them. In a world where women are in competition all the time with other women because society dictates it, this was so wonderful to read. Dolly’s friends aren’t her competition, they are her loves.
This is a book about the good, the bad, and the ugly or dates, friendship that is so strong and dear that it is the most important thing ever, and self-love. The kind of self-love you want everyone to have. It’s absolutely brilliant. Since reading it, I am now a devoted fan of her podcast The High Low with fellow journalist Pandora Sykes and even went to a live recording. I really hope she writes another novel – fiction or non-fiction – soon. I plan on devouring it.