Dolly Alderton’s autobiography has been on my ‘must read’ list for a while now and with the time I have been gifted through lockdown, I am rediscovering the joy of a constant book on the go.
Dolly’s words are pervading my everyday thoughts as I make my way through her thoughtful, delicate and yet chaotic account of her life in love (up until the age of 30).
Now, I am yet to finish this book so there may well be an addendum to this post shortly.
Often I find that when films, tv shows and books are hyped and reviewed so well I struggle to get on board with it initially. It is not the content or the quality itself, but the sheer force of the hype that renders me a little numb to the power of story itself.
This is the case most definitely for example, with A Star Is Born (the Lady Gaga/ Bradley Cooper turn). I am yet to watch it for fear that my little brain won’t connect and send signals to my tear ducts for those watery blobs to evacuate as so many people have guaranteed they will.
This is not the situation I find myself in with Dolly’s book. It took me a few pages of ‘what is her accent?’ pondering (I do this a lot with books and often end up wide of the mark) and a chat with a uni friend who recommended the book, to ask if she struggled too (she didn’t), but then I was swept up in it, the honesty and the relatable way she expresses herself and the anecdotes that she has garnered along the road to enlightened adulthood.
The intricate details, as my very oldest and best friends will attest, do not match up to my own dance though adolescence; I was not desperate for a boyfriend at school or particularly in a hurry to grow up, and, as my wonderful university friends will confirm when they met me in Cheltenham in 2003, was not even keen on taking ibuprofen, let alone anything else, during my undergraduate years or at any other time since. No, I was nothing like Dolly in school, college or life, but something about this book feels so connecting in its emotions and its ideas of love that I am indeed, in love with the book.
The recounting of her years eager to be out of adolescence and into the ‘glamorous’ and ‘grown up’ world of adulthood are documented with charm and wit, lightly poking fun at herself and confessing all about her innermost thoughts during her years as a student, boarder and undergraduate, before embarking on life in London.
Dolly has nailed it in terms of tone and her perspective is so honest and while dramatic, completely grounded, that you can totally understand her viewpoint – even when she does make disastrous choices and some truly appalling boyfriend decisions. Her ability to calm the stormy seas of comedy when life takes an altogether more sombre turn is brilliant and the constant in the book that I find myself anchored to is the strength and closeness of her female friendships, something I relate to strongly and with a full heart.
That lust for an exciting life takes her to New York at one point and that is where I’ve folded the page down for now. It’s a brilliant story of travelling to escape something that will always be with you no matter on which continent you sit. Your own head and heart. Plus, she attempts a trip to the glorious Nora Ephron’s apartment building and for that I give her marks for extra curricular activities while on a city break.
This autobiography is a breath of fresh air and a laugh a minute. I for one would be absolutely up for a Rod Stewart themed house party (read the book to find out how that shindig went down with guests) and I’ll be back to update this post when I’m done reading.
Now, its bank holiday Monday, glass of Oyster Bay anyone?….
The further I travelled into Dolly’s world, the more I related. The more I related, the more I laughed. The more I laughed, the more friends I told must read this book! This is how I was introduced to it and I hope that my own review will serve to get others cracking the spine of this wonderful piece of writing.
Dolly has a knack, a flair, for making your simultaneously outraged and empathetic. Her anecdotes are earnest and plentiful and you feel her growing with every page turned.
We have something in common, a love for Nora Ephron and her autobiography is laid out with a nod to Nora’s ‘Heartburn’ in which she punctuates chapters of her life with short recipes that resonate with the moment. For example, while Nora waxes lyrical about the perfect potatoes to keep loved ones close, Dolly fixes you the perfect hangover dinner of Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It is not imitation, but an honouring of a style and a playful technique that brings you back to the moment, when you realise that Dolly’s life isn’t all partying and dating apps, but is, as well as you and I, cooking, cleaning, working and, most of all, living.
An element of her writing that comes through in thick, ladened brush strokes is her viewpoint as a Millennial, and there is no better example than in the ‘letters’ she slips in from friends and acquaintances, inviting her to events and ritual Millennial markers of time. So sassy in their style, Dolly lays bare the sub text in printed form. It is hilarious to see it there in serif font, unashamed and cuttingly open.
Dolly’s descent into her thirties marks a significant turning point in her life. Mostly it highlights how much she loved her twenties, with all its anxiety and flippancy, and how much she would miss that time. The sadness of passing time, ageing and loss is beautifully written, and nowhere more so than in her dedication to her friend Farly and the loss she experiences in her family. You must read it to really feel it and understand the depths and intricacies.
Lists upon lists of things Dolly has learnt are shared throughout the pages, culminating in the universal theme that it’s ok to not be ok sometimes and to struggle, but that ultimately, it is love that brings you back to life. Not just romantic love, but something else on a different level. That of friendship.
In homage to Dolly’s love of her friends and her autobiography, here are a few of my favourite people who have helped me with everything I know about love … at 34.