I had seen Everything I Know About Love everywhere. By “everywhere”, I mean, on Instagram. For a while there, it was every third post that I scrolled past. I had never heard of Dolly Alderton. Was this fiction? Self-help? And so I kept on scrolling. In looking for books by women to review, I thought I’d finally take a punt since pretty much every other woman was already reading it.
Reading this book cleared up none of my previous questions while telling me everything. Google tells me she has quite an impressive resume, writing for The Times, Marie Claire, and Glamour, amongst a list that reads like the accomplishments of someone significantly older than her 29 years. Checking out her Instagram was a massive mistake because if I felt woefully like an underachiever already, her absolute beauty and envy-inducing life did absolutely nothing to make me feel better. Dolly is a party that I was very late to.
Everything I Know About Love takes us on a journey through Dolly’s life, her years at boarding school, hedonistic university years, car-crash romances. Dolly has a story for every occasion. In a normal review, I’d probably refer to the author as “the author” or at least by their surname, but Dolly has invited us to be on first name terms. This book is so deeply personal; you feel part of her inner circle, one of the gang, her newest drinking buddy. I’m sure she’s fine with the informality here.
This is a book that makes you think- it makes you carefully
consider all your own life choices. Why did I never strike up conversations
with strange bars on Tuesday nights? Why did I never spend my student loan on a
taxi across the country in the middle of the night? Should I have taken more
drugs? Should I have dated more interesting men? AM I BORING? Halfway through this book I began to think this was a memoir of some university
drop-out, maybe she’s in jail? Society teaches us that good behaviour and hard
work will reward us with our dream jobs and lucrative careers. I almost put
this down for good in annoyance that despite terrible, reckless behaviour, Dolly
had a wonderful collection of friends, privileged education, and always seemed
to make it out the other end of any scrape she found herself in.
“I am always half in life, half in a fantastical version of it in my head.”
Then she got me back. This girl works hard. There is no doubt that she is talented- despite the casual tone of the book, it is very well written and easy to read. I fell in love with her cast of characters. I admired her work ethic. and despite myself, I found it thoroughly enjoyable. Her side-notes, such as the list of “the most annoying things people say” might sound awfully cliché, but they actually made me laugh, and her recipes are something I strongly believe all books should consider including.
Two -thirds of the way through, I realised why this book existed. What I thought was a slightly funny adventure through early adulthood, became a deeply thought-provoking journey through mental health, life, death, privilege, love, friendship. At first, I thought this was a self-indulgent biography is much more. “We’ve all done this”, was my conclusion 30 pages in. “We’ve all done the uni thing, lived in crap houses and had to figure out being a grown up, don’t see the rest of us writing a book.” But it’s just that feeling that makes this book work. It feels like a chat with a friend. It’s relatable.
Dolly Alderton is who I want to be when I grow up.