Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton
Review by Ruby Furby
Journalist and Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton bears all with her debut coming-of-age, witty and intimately truthful memoir. Stumbling through life, she recounts falling in and out of love, finding jobs and getting hideously drunk with her friends in a rotting Camden flat.
The group of women that surround Alderton is the true heart of the story throughout. In the end, the most important lesson she learns – besides never to buy hair removal cream again – is that it is okay to be single, because it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved. She advises: “When you’re looking for love and it seems like you might not ever find it, remember you probably have access to an abundance of it already, just not the romantic kind.”
She starts in her teenage years, humiliating and messy as they were, as she wishes her adolescence away, fascinating over boys and adulthood. Her life goals are clearly set as she dreams: “When I’m a single woman in London I will be extremely elegant and wear black dresses and drink Martinis and will only meet men at book launches and at exhibition openings.”
Crashing into her tumultuous twenties, she depicts the next decade of her life through a combination of anecdotes, recipes, lists and satirical emails. The reader is invited to share the recklessness of her youth from drunkenly taking a taxi half-way across the country at 4am to see an ex-boyfriend, to throwing a socially disastrous Rod Stewart-themed house party with her dodgy landlord. Yet throughout, her charm and wit keep the humorous tone.
Everything I Know About Love is as hilarious as it is moving. Alderton deals with heartbreak, self-sabotage and loss as she weaves through the uncertainty of early adulthood, leaving no stone unturned. There is something to say about the strength and courage of Alderton to share her life so openly with her reader. She does not try to moralise her story; she tells it as it is, which is what makes the book so touching and relatable for women of every stage of life.
The way Alderton writes makes the reader feel like on one hand they are involved in her tight-knit friendship group, and on the other they have a big sister guiding them through life. She advocates that, “Feminists can get waxed. Priests can swear. Vegetarians can wear leather shoes. Do as much good as you can. The weighty representation of the world cannot rest on every decision you make.” Her individual story offers so many opportunities to resonate with her experience because she doesn’t try to hide the complexity of her character.
The truth of Alderton’s story brings a sense of comfort in knowing that no one needs to have their dream job figured out in the next five years. You are allowed to be jealous if your best friend gets married before you and anyone is enough the way they are, messy parts and all.
If you can’t get enough of her worldly wisdom, Dolly Alderton has a regular column for The Sunday Times Style Magazine.