This was only my second encounter with Dolly Alderton. I first heard of Alderton on The Irish Times Women’s Podcast, and I liked her. She is warm, down to earth and honest. And her book is very much the same.
Alderton tackles a lot of very serious issues throughout, but she peppers it with fun and honesty that is very endearing.
However, at the beginning, I felt like I was being regaled with the tales of one girl’s drunken escapades and it was a little tiresome. We are both of a similar vintage (and that’s not all that vintage!) so, reading about the wayward, wild nights of yesteryear when the memories are still remarkably clear lacked a necessary hue of nostalgia.
Alderton’s stories were all very familiar, drunken nights out with friends, the rocky road to romance and the blurred transition from carefree adolescence to adulthood but I struggled with it early on. I know, I know… it’s a memoir, but It was, at times, painfully self-centred. Alderton admits to this. That’s how she lived her 20s, caught up in the desire for fun and frivolity. And that’s fine, but I really didn’t want to read about it, the same way I don’t have much interest in listening to people telling me about their MAD nights out that really aren’t all that mad. And that’s what I mean about nostalgia, it’s still too fresh.
Her later chapters were more intriguing and where I felt the weight of her work. Alderton talks about her eating disorder, her anxieties, finding her feet and recognising what is truly important in life – her friends.
The book is interspersed with recipes and witty letters that we all sometimes wish we could write but politeness tells us not to. I particularly enjoyed her invitation to the first ‘grown up party’ because you really do realise you have transitioned when party snacks extend beyond a bag of crisps to include a cheese board (let’s never dispense with the crisps though, they are always an essential item. Salt and vinegar please).
Likewise, her baby shower invitation tallies with the sentiments of many women I know, but we would never dare admit it. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, if the letter wasn’t somewhat reminiscent of another stylish, single, female columnist who graced our tv screens for almost a decade?
This book could be a great read for younger readers (I will add a parental warning here). Alderton explores her relationship with alcohol and a lot of it is not pretty, but she certainly is not alone in this. She raises important questions about why we drink (and now that I’m older, I think all young people should ask themselves this; of course I do, that’s what happens when you get older!). But, Alderton, to her credit, doesn’t glamorise it, she paints it for what it is, drunken dalliances and questionable life decisions. There are also some cautionary tales about men and the dangers of setting your worth by their opinion. That’s where Alderton really draws you in. She is an incredibly talented wordsmith, clever, witty, strong and good fun, and yet spends much of the book chasing one man or another to validate her and you just want to grab her and shake her. Ultimately, and this isn’t much of a spoiler, Alderton realises that love is as much about friendships as it is about finding a man. For the reader, it’s obvious how much she adores her friends and so it’s not much of a revelation for us. And frankly, not that much of a breakthrough. Who hasn’t realised this after a few glasses of wine?! However, there is a sense of relief and you can’t help but feel happy for Alderton as she arrives at this moment because she begins to feel very much like a long-term friend.
The book wraps up quite abruptly, but maybe that’s because Alderton is so young and is still out there moving on to the next phase and, perhaps, the next book.