Dorota reviews Dolly Alderton’s much-celebrated memoir about friendship.
I thought pinpointing a single book in my entire existence that changed my life would be fairly difficult, but to be honest, there’s one book that’s lived in my head rent-free ever since I read it: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton.
Thanks to its large font and short chapters, the 300-something page autobiography is up there with some of the easiest reads of my life and was a welcome break from the heavier texts I had to read for my course at uni. I read most of this book on the flight back from Amsterdam in my first year of uni, squished between my two flatmates. The book itself had already religiously made its rounds through my new university friendship group which led to “Which bit are you at?” whispered to me throughout our otherwise sleepy flight. Two years down the line, and I still forget to give that book back to its original owner (sorry, Viv).
The reason I’m mentioning the circumstances in which Everything I Know About Love made its way to me is because the book is fundamentally about friendships, particularly friendships between women. Passing the book around between my new, female group of uni friends seems very in-line with that theme, and helped me identify with the life experiences of not only Dolly, but also each other, as we grew closer like a weird parody of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.
Apart from being a thoroughly entertaining read, Everything I Know About Love is full of important discussions that, as a young woman at university, I found immensely helpful. It offered a realistic outlook on what university life can really be like and broke down the harmful stereotypes about love and relationships that had been shoved down my throat all my life. The problematic concept of finding a soulmate that makes all your problems go away two weeks into uni is probably not alien to any young woman who grew up with romcoms and teen fiction. Dolly presented romance in her book the way it truly is for most people in their early 20s: awkward, often disappointing, and fairly amusing. I found it both comforting and refreshing to know someone shared this view with me. Despite its title, the book doesn’t focus on romance, but fundamentally on life conclusions that Dolly drew from her years of friendships and relationships. I think every woman in her early 20s, and many other people, will find Dolly’s stories endearing and relatable. I know I did – in fact during my first year, when I felt fairly lost in my degree, I related to Dolly more than I did to anything else. Her emphasis on the importance of self-love and appreciating your friends struck a chord with me. This book was comforting in a weird way, and very entertaining. It was like drinking a really nice hot chocolate on a cold Glasgow evening.