Back in October, a very exciting package dropped through my letterbox – Dolly Alderton’s first novel, Ghosts. Pretty much every woman in her 20s I know devoured Everything I Know About Love – sending pictures of pages to their pals in WhatsApp groups – and let me tell you now, Ghosts will be no different.
Memoirists can have a tough time being accepted as novelists, especially those as well-loved as Dolly, who definitely has what you’d call a cult following, but within three pages I forgot who was writing it, being completely lost in the plot and brilliant writing. The protagonist Nina George Dean a successful food writer who resides in Archway, North London, and we meet her on her 32nd birthday, and follow her throughout this tumultuous year of her life. Ghosts takes a realistic look at life; modern dating, aging, family, and friendships. It doesn’t have the optimism of Dolly’s memoir but it does have her quintessential humour weaved throughout, as well her insanely poignant observations on life.
Reading Ghosts was an awakening for me, Nina is at a similar stage in her life as me – close friends are moving out of London to buy homes, having babies, getting married – it documents those growing pains and the process of falling in and out of friendships, when your lives start to take different directions. Dolly truly is Nora Ephron for millennials.
You might have guessed from the title, but Ghosts features some Ghosting. Both Nina, and her closest friend Lola, are ghosted – in varied but equally brutal ways. It illustrates just how heartbreaking internet dating can be – high highs, and lower lows. When you meet someone online and date, you exist in a vacuum for those first few months – it can feel romantic, that you’re in your own bubble, because there are no mutual friends who put you together. But, this is dangerous – with no one linking two people, it’s easy to behave badly without the consequences, or any accountability. It makes ghosting possible – and ghosting really is just another form of gaslighting. Lola and Nina are both left confused, what did they do? Was it all in their heads? Maybe they misread the signals? A feeling that’s all too familiar. But the ghosts aren’t just romantic, they’re everywhere: a Dad vanishing to ill health, a Mum transforming into someone new, an ex-boyfriend moving on, a life-long friendship falling apart, a life in London fading as people one by one leave the capital.
Ghosts is astonishingly good, I was nervous to read it – I love Dolly, and I worried that my expectations for this novel were going to leave me disappointed. I shouldn’t have worried, as it’s nothing but sensational. I sobbed, laughed, and felt genuine heartbreak for the characters. This line will stay with me for the rest of my life, spoken between Nina and Lola, and if my review hasn’t convinced you to read the book I hope this quote will: “Maybe friendship is being the guardian of another person’s hope“.
Pre-order your copy of Ghosts HERE.