Book Review: Everything I Know About Love
A few months ago I caught wind of The High Low, a news and pop culture podcast hosted by journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. As I became increasingly accustomed to hearing their chirpy voices each week, it dawned on me what a great representation they are of an important generation of young women. Growing up I have found that girls are not necessarily encouraged to cultivate compassionate arguments when it comes to politics or current affairs. Additionally, current affairs can seem inaccessible and finding an avenue to express your opinions can be challenging. Dolly and Pandora present well balanced and realistic opinions, with episodes always strike the perfect balance between informative and entertaining. I believe The High Low is a wonderful and accessible current affairs portal, ideal for busy young women who want to cultivate their own voice. Give it a listen!
Since I’m only a few years older than Dolly, and similarly lived out my twenties in London, making friends and producing exes, the book appealed to me immediately. I wondered if it was going to be a tragic mocking of singledom and useless men. Surely not, I thought, I expected more from Alderton, and I was not wrong. The book is a wild ride through the years of Dolly’s teens and twenties, not only chronicling her stories of dating and romantic love, but also celebrating the immense love and importance of friendships.
Alderton describes a multitude of colourful dates, relationships, nights out and parties, many of which reach hilarious extremes. She was once so drunk that she mistakenly believed she was on a night bus to Oxford, even though it was really only headed for Oxford Circus. After alighting the bus, she extravagantly decided to get the nearest mini cab firm to take her all the way up the M1 to Leamington Spa to continue the party. She really was a party hound.
I was most amused, and bemused, by her self absorbed bohemian waster/city working boyfriend who she met and a broken down train. Through fate, they bumped into each other a few years later in London, and she was lured back to his room, which had walls filled with nude sketches of ex girlfriends.
I loved seeing how the benefit of time and reflection has allowed Dolly to turn the experiences she had into positive lessons that she can pass on to her readers. What surprised me and pleased me the most was how much of her book was devoted to the love she feels for her girl friends. She is surrounded by a gang of incredibly close and loving women who are her backbone and support mechanism throughout the book. It’s wonderful to hear these friendships celebrated in such a way.
The book is filled with sad and emotional stories and it brought me to tears twice. The first instance being the tragic story of Farly’s sister Florence, about which Alderton writes a beautiful and heartfelt account. Secondly, Dolly documents her struggle with the change in dynamic of friendships as life seems to move on for others, leaving her behind. Her best friend Farly meets a man in her early twenties and subsequently moves in with him, leaving Dolly feeling abandoned and betrayed. The way she describes the process of learning to understand that life changes, people grow, friends move on, and big life events happen to people at different stages, struck a chord with me. It was a sad chapter, highlighting an issue that can unexpectedly and cruelly impact you, leaving you feeling selfish and thoughtless, but simoultaneously let down and sad.
A painful low point was the start of a two week holiday in New York where Alderton has been lead on, then harshly rejected, by a flirtatious fellow wedding guest, only to be left stranded with an empty bank account and no companions for the rest of the trip. In a desperate state she turns to Tinder, which at first presents her with a disgustingly unappealing sex scenario, only to rescue her a few days later by sending a (short term) knight in shining armour.
The book has a good helping of Dolly’s wit and sarcasm, which luckily counterbalances a few lengthly emotional outpourings, which I deemed a touch too gushing and over sentimental. Despite angering me by being truly depressing at times, I couldn’t stop listening and having to curb my excitement about getting to the end. It was an all-consuming listen.
My most laughable moment was Dolly’s ironic BIN text conversation. She stole her flatmates phone and struck up a stupid conversation with a random phone book contact about her problems with refuse collection. You’ll have to read it to appreciate the humour.
The book may well be lost on women born before the 80s, and I imagine most men, but what I loved most was it’s honesty. It’s like Girls compared to Sex and the City; it's a modern day, gritty account of how stupid and shit life can be. There is no glitter or Manolos at the end, but there is a life changing lesson behind every story. Thank you Dolly!