I don’t usually review or even read much non-fiction but Dolly Alderton unexpectedly invaded my life for three days as I consumed her captivating memoir, one delicious sentence at a time. Everything I Know About Love is is one of those rare books that reassures and inspires, shocks and surprises, whilst making you cry and laugh along the way.
I almost couldn’t bring myself to start this review because Dolly’s writing is so indescribably wonderful, I now feel very inadequate but that in itself goes against the sentiment of her book and her journey to discovering that she is “enough”, so I’ll give it a go. Plus, this isn’t about me or my writing abilities, it’s about spreading the word; Everything I Know About Love should be every millennial woman’s handbook.
The word ‘relatable’ is thrown around liberally when it comes to fictional female protagonists but it’s arguably much easier to resonate with the reader when constructing a character to fit a story. Dolly Alderton successfully takes on a much harder challenge, weaving together her experiences to form a real, relatable narrative that rings true with me and many others.
I had a similar upbringing to Dolly, living in the suburbs of London and attending an all girl’s private school, just five years behind, so it was slightly surreal reliving my youth through her anecdotes. She very accurately accounts the trials and tribulations of navigating relationships through after school MSN conversations or, as fourteen year old Freya would say, ‘convos’ (lolz). It’s no wonder she’s amassed a fandom of millennial women, no other generation will understand the intricate art of speaking to your crush on MSN.
My university years and early twenties were nowhere near as wild as Dolly’s but, regardless of your age or background, you will see yourself in her experiences of love, lust, loss and everything in between. Whether it’s feeling like you’ve lost a best friend to a boyfriend, had an intense online relationship with someone you haven’t met or been on countless disastrous dates, you will have felt the same series of emotions that Dolly so eloquently evokes.
Her chapter on therapy was especially enlightening and incredibly brave of her to write with unbridled honesty. So many people go through therapy not really knowing what they’re doing and if or how it’s working, myself included, so I was very grateful to her for taking me into her sessions – the most private space anyone could be invited in to.
I’m in awe of Dolly, not only as a writer, but as a woman candidly sharing everything she has learnt in her twenties, which is a confusing, directionless decade because, like she says, life could take you down so many different paths that you can become frozen, not knowing which one(s) to pursue.
At the heart of Everything I Know About Love is Dolly’s love for her female friends. She’s lucky to have had a group of close friends around her throughout her twenties and she realises how fortunate she is. If anything, her anecdotes will teach you never to underestimate the power of a good friend. Non-romantic love can be just as satisfying if you stop relying on a boyfriend to fill any emotional gaps and look within yourself instead. Her relationship with her childhood friend, Farly, is an emotional rollercoaster that will prompt you to thank your lucky stars if you have an equivalent or make you wish you had if you don’t.
Dolly’s fear of romantic intimacy is palpable. Anyone who’s experienced heartbreak will know how hard it is to allow yourself to fall in love with someone again but, where she might lack in an openness to romantic love, she makes up for in her willingness to put her all into female friendships, which are arguably the most important in your twenties. I’m the opposite to Dolly in the way that I can be an open book to a romantic partner when I trust them but hold myself back from becoming close to a friend. The end of a friendship can be just as, if not more painful than romantic heartbreak and I suffered a lot of rejection from girls during my school years, which put up a barrier between me and my friendships. I’ve since made new friends who I’ve been able to be myself with and who are patient with my slightly detached approach to friendship but Dolly’s commitment to her friends is something to strive for. I also have a sister who is my best friend so I suppose that has made me unconsciously complacent in the knowledge that she will always be there for me.
As you can see, Dolly’s wise words and insightful outlook will make you consider your own relationships and self-analyse. Her antics will stir up a giant, year seven sized rucksack of nostalgia and you’ll feel every emotion there is for Dolly, but also your younger self.
Other than the above, I’m lost for words on turning over the last page of Everything I Know About Love. You really have to read it to understand its importance. More than anything, you will be left feeling like you have a new friend in Dolly, one that will always be in a book on your bedside table ready to offer comforting words during moments of self-doubt.
P.S. Happy Galentine’s Day!