Credit: GG Illustrator AJ Duncan (@ajc.illustrates)

Review: Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts

By Alexandra Bullard

Alderton’s debut novel is an instant hit to get stuck into as the days get shorter and the nights get darker.

When I heard that Dolly Alderton was back on the bookshelves this October, I couldn’t help but get excited. A few years ago, I read her 2018 memoir Everything I Know About Love and I finished it within a week. It was so blisteringly honest and relatable that I made sure that everyone around me read it too. Despite her new book being on the expensive side, I swiftly bought it from my local Waterstones and got stuck in. 

Ghosts tells the story of Nina Dean, a British thirty-something woman who embarks on a new relationship thanks to the (fictional) dating app, Linx. Nina is your typical London girl: a best-selling food writer, former English teacher, who lives in her own flat in suburban North London. I quickly brushed past this unrealistic lifestyle before I could become disheartened on the first chapter. Nina is also 32 years old and single. For many people, this is perfectly normal. For others, including her ex-boyfriend Joe, this is a worrying situation. Not dating or being in a relationship with anyone for a really long time, especially in your thirties, can be seen as the first alarm bell to living a single, lonely life. This book, however, completely dismisses that stigma.

I love how Alderton explores the concepts of looking for love online. Searching for love in our day and age for single women is mainly online-based, especially on tech giants such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. Since Covid-19 turned the world upside down, and took our love lives with it, these apps have promised to help you find a match one swipe at a time. Nina develops an idea of the perfect man she’d like to match with, which results in her meeting Max. Everything seems to go swimmingly but, alas, the couple do encounter relationship problems (spoiler alert). 

Although many people use these apps like Nina, many of them remain single. It is a horrible thought that leaves me reeling. From aggressive algorithms to lusting over likes, Nina and her friends experience different types of love in Ghosts, which leads the reader wondering if romance in the real world is dead. Dating apps are more convenient, and no one seems to really interact with strangers the way they used to. Alderton’s novel thankfully gets straight to the point: apps like Linx are certainly steering people to behave in certain ways, but can that alone take the blame for Nina’s quest for endless choice? In Nina’s search for validation, she realises that family and meaningful connections are far more important than matches. 

Alderton does well to bring to life Nina’s complicated family issues and anxiety. Noting the very real challenges we are all experiencing right now, I believe this book is more relevant, timely, and poignant than ever. The theme of loneliness is prevalent, and draws us to the conclusion that, no matter what situation you are in, it is okay not to be okay. Underpinning this is Alderton’s ability to gauge the mood and capture the audience’s imagination, knowing what makes a great piece of writing for readers from all walks of life. Alderton is also an award-winning journalist and columnist for The Sunday Times, whilst co-hosting the weekly podcast The High Low. Thanks to her experience, she has clearly mastered every form of writing, which isn’t a surprise to all.

Ghosts is published by Fig Tree (£14.99). 


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