Book Review: Ghosts – Dolly Alderton

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

About The Book

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.

My Review

Nina George Dean is 31, single and lives in London. A food writer who has published a successful memoir/cookery book and writes for both magazines and newspapers she has scrimped and saved to save enough money to put down a deposit on her very own flat. Her last relationship ended a couple of years of previously and she has spent the time since working on her career and herself. She is ready to meet somebody, so with the encouragement of her (amazing) friend Lola, she sets up a profile on a dating app, only to match with somebody almost immediately.

Max is tall, good looking, an accountant by day, an outdoorsy and earthy man at weekends, he is fun, intelligent, romantic and sexy as hell. Oh, and he tells her on their first date that he is going to marry her. It’s all going swimmingly well. She’s found him. The man she is going to spend the rest of her life with. She can join the ranks of the marrieds. She can live in a big house with a beautiful kitchen and a brood of children. Or will she?

I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like a run of the mill romance novel. Girl meets boy, something happens and they end up madly in love etc. Well, you’d be wrong. Yes, there is love in this book, stacks of it in fact. Nina’s love for Lola, for her life, her career, for her best friend Katherine and her child, for her parents, in particular for her lovely dad who is being lost to the horrors of dementia but this is a book of depth, startling observations, wit and a brilliant examination of modern life and love.

I cannot tell you just how much I loved this book. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it and days after finishing it I still have that lovely buzzy feeling which only comes from a bloody good book. Let me tell you why.

Firstly, Dolly Alderton is just a terrific writer who has worked really hard at her craft. This is her first foray into fiction and her writing is just pin sharp. My ecopy of the book is littered with highlighted sections of absolutely wonderful observances and descriptions of people and events.

Her characterisation in particular is fantastic. Each person leapt from the page, fully formed and took up room in my head. Nina’s editor Vivien has a “shoulder-length, messy-fringed haircut that implied a former life of lots of parties” and a man is described as having “bought his entire personality from a cobbled side-road of boutiques in Shoreditch”. She makes us fancy Max (and I mean properly fancy him) and root hard for him and Nina.

It strikes the perfect balance between romance, wit and sentiment. One minute I was laughing at a brilliant chapter dedicated to an awful hen weekend filled with enforced fun and the next my heart was breaking for Nina as she watched her beloved dad descend into the grips of dementia. These sections in particular are beautifully written. The terror, denial of the true extent of the problem, the fear and the brutal nature of a cruel illness is executed with a deft and tender touch.

The ghosts referenced in the title not only represents the modern perils of dating and being ghosted, but also refers to the loss of some of the things which Nina holds dearest. Her dad’s illness is leaving him a ghost of his former self, it is affecting his relationship with Nina’s mother and in turn her relationship with Nina.

She really needs a friend and support but her friendships are changing and she misses the life she used to have. Her friends are nearly all married with children and her friendship with her best friend Katherine in particular has been forever changed by her marriage and becoming a mother. Being unmarried and child-free there is an assumption that Nina has all the time in the world, that it is totally OK to cancel on her last minute, to ask that she schlep to Surrey for a cuppa and to complain that London is just too far to travel. The ghost of this former friendship hovers on the periphery and I found it such an emotional thing to read about.

It is just perfectly executed and such an accomplished book which broke my heart a little. I absolutely loved this book. It’s gone firmly onto my Best Books of 2020 list because I connected so strongly with it. Compassionate, tender, poignant, witty, wry, emotional, sexy, loving – it is all of this and more. Read it then get in touch because I *really* need to talk about Max.

Where You Can Buy It

My thanks to Fig Tree for providing me with a copy of the book via Netgalley.

Ghosts is out today in both ebook and hardcover and I’m buying a copy for my forever shelf.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Ghosts – Dolly Alderton

  1. I just read it today and loved it! So descriptive and real. Loved Lola. Am in that situation where most of my friends are in relationships/married/have kids so very relateable. I wanted to believe in Max but how it ended is sadly realistic

    Liked by 1 person

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