The one book you should read if you find yourself single on Valentine’s Day.
“The gap between who you were on a Saturday night, commandeering an entire pub garden by shouting obnoxiously… and who you are on a Sunday afternoon, thinking about death and worrying if the postman likes you or not, becomes too capacious.”
I discovered Dolly Alderton one morning in 2015, in the form of an amusing dating column for The Sunday Times Style. I enjoyed her raucous stories and straight-talking, no-nonsense narrative so much that her writing quickly became the highlight of my (usually hungover) Sunday mornings. When I discovered that she had a book out, I jumped at the chance to read it. The book, Everything I know about love, did not disappoint.
As a hilarious collection of memoirs, this marvellous book is for anyone trying to walk the line between serious and silly. It’s a biography that tells us about Alderton’s childhood, first kisses, teenage dramas, her university days and living in a flat in Camden trying to navigate ‘adult’ life. It’s also a comedy, and a romance, and one for the heartbreak hotel too.
More than this, the book contains bizarre food recipes, emails to imaginary groups of people, weekly shopping lists and transcriptions of intimate text conversations. Yes, in an otherwise very sophisticated book it is as weird as it sounds, but it works perfectly and will have you laughing out loud.
“Dear friends who I normally only ever get completely leathered with, I’d love to have you round to witness my attempt at behaving like an adult.”
Everything I know about love is full of strikingly real and relatable musings, on enduring the challenges of life, love and (sometimes terrible) dates. The book provides a welcome release from packed-commuter trains or cumbersome to do lists. It is also a great book if you like the emotion of a troubled memoir but need a regular dose of comedy release.
“All I did was drink and shag. All anyone did was drink and shag, pausing only briefly to eat a kebab, watch an episode of Eggheads or shop for a fancy-dress outfit.”
Alderton is careful not to moralise life as a woman, simply telling us her story as it is. I can imagine the experience of recalling these stories was not always an easy one, but the dedication to her work shows. As an extremely successful biography, we get to know Alderton as if she too is our friend.
Despite how funny this book is, there is a notable amount of grief strung between the words. Life and loss come hand in hand, and Alderton is careful not to dismiss this. She has her fair share of sadness; like many of us she has not been immune to the cruelty of people, nor the affects of loss and soul-crushing heartbreak. I have found a lot of respect for Alderton in her clear need to write about everything properly, rather than sugar coating the truth in the name of comedy. She doesn’t try to be the patron saint in this story, just herself. That takes a lot of guts. What makes this book so good is that it is so true to life; the good the bad and the ugly muddled together so tightly you can barely tell them apart.
“I said goodbye to this spectacular, beautiful, electric thunderstorm of a girl, knowing it could be the last time I ever saw her.”
Everything I know about love’s candid and joking address of even the hardest parts of life is refreshing, and takes you through a messy life in neat succession. The book is overflowing with a respect and care for the friends and family that fill these pages, and as a consequence you find yourself needing to tell the important people in your life that you love them, and get on the nearest train to go and hug your best friend.
When this book is stripped back, it becomes a homage to female friendships. We owe so much to the women in our lives. They are there when no one else is and understand us in ways no one else can. Where would we be without the friends we made along the way? The bond between women is inherent and precious and despite everything (the drama, the bitching, the undoubtable men who get in the way), Alderton makes sure you know that the importance of this gift.
The moral of Everything I know about love is only partly about self-love and the value of being alone. It is about loving all the good people in your life unconditionally. The book tells you it is okay to be single, because it doesn’t mean you’re not loved. And for those in a relationship, the book reminds you not to forget the others.
“It may seem that life is difficult at times but it’s really as simple as breathing in and out… Be the person you wish you could be, not the person you feel you are doomed to be. Let yourself run away with your feelings. You were made so that someone could love you. Let them love you.”
If you want a taste of Dolly Alderton before diving right in, she has a regular column for The Sunday Times Style Magazine.