Dolly Alderton's 'Ghosts': A Tale of Growing Up
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
This Christmas, as it has for millions others across the UK, was a quite nondescript one. The upside of this however, meant that I had plenty of time on my hands to make a dent on some of the incredible books I had been gifted for Christmas - time that would normally be spent in my local Spoons, drinking shots from sticky glasses and trying to pick a fight in my favourite festive jumper.
Ever since I read Alderton's 'Everything I Know About Love' a few years ago I have been a firm believer that she is the best thing since sliced bread. Her award-winning podcast with Pandora Skyes has been a regular, and welcome, companion throughout lockdowns so when I discovered she had ventured into writing fiction I knew it would be a must-read.
The thing I find most enthralling about Alderton is her portrayal of normal, haven't-got-their-shit-figured-out young women. Imagine the horror when you sit down to read something only to be pissed on with a female protagonist who is a successful and beautiful demi boss-babe Godess, living in a bought house in Nottinghill with an adonis of a husband and two young children - it is unrealistic and certainly isn't fooling me.
Alderton's narrator is Nina, a once secondary school English teacher cum successful food writer, who struggles with imposter syndrome and writer's block. Note the parallels to the author's own story. Nina and her only other single friend Lola, are hopeless romantics who have been worn down by the constant loss of friends from university days settling down and moving to the suburbs with their young families.
When Nina's date with seemingly perfect (warning: if you think they're too good to be true, they often are) Max turns into a fledging relationship it looks as if her life is increasingly fulfilled and following the narrative of her peers. That is, until Max disappears off of the face of the Earth. "ghosting" her and leading her down the dark rabbit-hole of bombarding his phone with calls and messages.
What I really enjoyed most about the book was the epiphany towards the end, where Nina realises she was never really in love with Max, she was simply infatuated with the idea of him: the feeling she mistook for being in love with his was instead a yearning for the happy-ever-after of her friends who were navigating adult life.
Throw into the mix the woven tale of her father coming to terms with his diagnoses of dementia and the impact this has on her, this book is a movingly beautiful account of what it means to grow up and to navigate the world as an adult. It explores that even the glossiest seemingly perfect relationships are very rarely what they seem and at the end of the day the only person you can truly depend on to not let you down or disappoint is yourself.