fri 19/08/2022

Dolly Alderton: Ghosts review - a love story beyond romance | reviews, news & interviews

Dolly Alderton: Ghosts review - a love story beyond romance

Dolly Alderton: Ghosts review - a love story beyond romance

A light but enjoyable examination of the life of the new thirty-something

Dolly Alderton © Alexandra Cameron

There’s something simultaneously cringey and also addictive about Dolly Alderton’s prose. Ghosts is definitely feminism lite, a palimpsest for young women in London who are into yoga and small plates. But that is not to detract from the fact that it is eminently readable, and frequently charming.

The narrator and protagonist of Ghosts, 32-year-old Nina Dean, is a very thinly veiled portrait of the author. Alderton has amended some details, but the bare bones are very obvious to any readers of her 2018 Everything I Know About Love. Nina is short where Alderton is tall, dark-haired where Alderton is blonde, a food writer rather than a columnist, but it is close enough to be clearly all about Alderton. Again, that is not to say that this takes away from Ghosts. Perhaps that is part of its charm – that the characters are so recognisable, and also so self-oriented. As a twenty-something single woman in London, her romantic mishaps are all too familiar, but the familiarity of humiliation can be a salve to injured pride. It is, in some ways, a fluffy piece of schadenfreude, but like her characters, with their own "schadenfreude shelf", it is comforting to read about someone who is even worse off than you.

GhostsGhosts initially seems to be about love, an easy subject to belittle. But it is about far more than that, something which becomes evident early in the novel. The big romance is set up within the first 50 pages, with the arrival of the dashing, eligible and seemingly perfect Max. Nina is ready for this romance, especially as that is what everyone around her is encouraging. But he is a little too perfect, a little too much like someone’s idea of a good ending. And other strands of the story are far more important than he is. There’s her friend, Lola, who has been single for 10 years without romantic success; Katherine, her childhood friend struggling with small children; and her father, who is slowly losing his mental acuity and memory. Her father’s story is particularly tragic and well-described, contrasting Nina’s position at the beginning of her life to her father’s at the end of his. The desperation of what to do when a parent no longer can offer the stability of a parent feels devastatingly accurate, the extreme version of what many young people feel as they transition into adulthood.

It is perhaps not surprising, given the subject matter of Everything I Know About Love, that friendship is really the greatest love story in Ghosts. Whether it’s the rekindling of a dying childhood companionship, or the very satisfying defence of a friend against a common foe, Alderton writes very well about women supporting other women. She is honest about the oppositions that society sets up in female friendship: how they may never be resolved, but can be overlooked in favour of a deeper connection. It speaks very well to the urge within us all to compare ourselves to others, and also demonstrates perfectly that, while there may not be such thing as a perfect ending,  nothing is ever set in stone.


Friendship is really the greatest love story in 'Ghosts'


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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