It might seem silly to be writing a memoir when you’re not yet 30. There’s a snobbery attached to memoirs, an idea that one needs to have lived a long and full life before even thinking about putting pen to paper to eternally memorialise the experience. All I can say is, thank God Dolly Alderton didn’t wait.
For me, and for I imagine countless other women in their 20s, this is a hilarious, insightful, at times awfully sad and incredibly relatable meditation about womanhood, friendship, revelry, romance and, of course, love – in all its many guises.
There are several reasons why I loved this book and read it solidly in a day. I haven’t done that since University, where I was mandated to power read three books a week. The first reason I loved it is because it is funny – laugh out loud funny. Anyone on the cusp of womanhood in the mid/late 2000s will get a twinge of nostalgia at that painfully awkward and, in many ways, unique to the time experience. I, like Dolly, remember rushing home and logging on to MSN, appearing offline and then going back online in a feeble attempt to get the crush du jour to notice me.
‘Early on in our friendship, we discovered that since the conception of Instant Messenger, we had both been copying and pasting conversations with boys on to a Microsoft Word document, printing them out and putting the pages in a ring-binder folder to read before bed like an erotic novel. We thought ourselves to be a sort of two-person Bloomsbury Group of early Noughties MSN Messenger.’
The second reason I loved it is because I love the way Dolly writes. It feels like it’s just two of you talking in a bar late into the night with a bottle of pinot. It’s raw, and it’s honest. And she captures some moments of life with such an astute eye. How many times, I found myself thinking, have I felt this exact way when on a train (cross-country train travel is one of the things I miss the most about England) –
‘I always thought something brilliant might happen to me on a train. The transitional state of a long journey has always seemed to me the most romantic and magical of places to find yourself in, marooned in a cosy pod of your own thoughts, suspended in mid-air, travelling through a wodge of silent, blank pages between two chapters. […]The clearest moments of epiphany and gratitude have hit me when zooming through unidentifiable English countryside, staring out at a golden rapeseed field, considering what I am leaving behind or about to approach.’
She is unflinching. She talks about the revelry of all-night partying and drinking and drug-dabbling and those hilarious stories that become funnier and more outrageous each time you tell them. But she also talks about the end of the party. The reality of what being everyone’s favourite good-time girl does to you, the persona you have to maintain – to be the first one on the dancefloor and the last one home.
‘The gap between who you were on a Saturday night, commandeering an entire pub garden by shouting obnoxiously about how you’ve always felt you had at least three prime-time sitcom scripts in you, and who you are on a Sunday afternoon, thinking about death and wondering if the postman likes you or not, becomes too capacious.’
And the third reason I loved it is because of the way Dolly describes female friendships; one of the strongest and purest and earliest forms of love. How our female friendships shape who we are and who we become and how true friends are one constant in the face of momentous change. And the devastation we feel when the landscape of these friendships changes forever.
‘I’d like to pause the story a moment to talk about ‘nothing will change’. I’ve heard it said to me repeatedly by women I love during my twenties when they move in with boyfriends, get engaged, move abroad, get married, get pregnant. ‘Nothing will change.’ It drives me bananas. Everything will change. Everything will change. The love we have for each other stays the same, but the format, the tone, the regularity and the intimacy of our friendship will change for ever.’
It’s compulsive, delightful, sensitive reading – and I loved every minute.