“Everything I Know About Love” (2018) by Dolly Alderton

Memoir, published by Fig Tree, an imprint of Penguin Books, January 2018, hardcover edition, 330 pages. ISBN: 978-0-241-32271-0.
Everything I Know About Love | Prose & Paper

A few years back, Everything I Know About Love was all over Bookstagram. You would see the cover everywhere. Only four years later, I finally read it. Or, rather, listened to Dolly Alderton, the author, read the book. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while but I am glad I listened to it rather than read it myself.

And before I go into more detail about the book, I have to tell you what I thought of it, and it is simple really: I absolutely loved it. Would recommend it immediately. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it resonated with me, made me think of my teenage and college years, about my life right now, and it touched me deeply. If you can, listen to the author read her book. It is hilarious, it is moving, it feels even more intimate than reading the stories about her life. To get an impression of what I mean, you can listen to the first three chapters on YouTube:

Everything I Know About Love is a memoir by British author, journalist and podcaster Dolly Alderton. As the title suggests, one of the main topics are the lessons she has learned in her time about love. Romantic love. But also about friendships, female friendships mainly.

I would like to pause the story for 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.

page 33

Alderton’s writing is as funny as it is moving. It is beautiful, really, and exceptional, the way she captures the experiences of a whole generation. The details of those experiences may vary, surely, but a lot of times I felt like I was reading about my own teenage and college years. About how the first break-up feels, about the importance of friendships, about how things change so much when you transition from teenager to adult, and how confusing growing up can be.

‘Is this it?’ she asked us, bellowing into the dark night. ‘Is this really all life is?’
‘Is what all life is?’ Margaret asked soothingly, putting her arm around her.
‘Fucking… Tottenham Court Road and ordering shit off Amazon,’ she replied.

page 167

If you can relate to these quotes as much as I do, we would get along just fine.

‘You know when people say schooldays are the best day of your life?’ I said to her one weekend afternoon as we lay in the sunshine of their family’s garden.
‘Yeah?’ she said.
‘They’re talking shit.’ […]
‘Yes. It’s the biggest load of rubbish I ever heard. Schooldays are the worst days of your life, Floss. All the good stuff only begins when you leave.’

page 196

Ah, the nostalgia. I remember how I could not wait for school to end so my life could finally start. That’s how I felt when I was 17. I also remember a lot of people telling me how I would soon come to regret saying this and that sooner rather than later, I would miss going to school. Turns out: I never did. Not a single day. Of course I wouldn’t mind a six-week-long summer vacation but I personally love being an adult. The freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. That is where I can relate to the book very much.

One of my favorite chapters undoubtedly is Twenty-eight Lessons Learnt in Twenty-eight Years. It contains two of my favorite quotes:

Life is a difficult, hard, sad, unreasonable, irrational thing. So little of it makes sense. So much of it is unfair. And a lot of it simply boils down to the unsatisfying formula of good and bad luck.

page 307

That’s not all life is, though, it is also “a wonderful, mesmerizing, magical, fun, silly thing” (page 307).

Besides the topics of growing up, love and friendship, Alderton addresses the subjects of family, illness, loss, grief, self-sabotage, therapy, and learning. This is what I liked most about the book – it shows progress and growing. I think Alderton chose a clever concept for showing her progress, as she jumps back and forth in the timeline of the events.

To my surprise, the audiobook contained additional chapters that my physical copy didn’t. It seems like chapters were added in later editions; if you do buy the book, make sure not to purchase an earlier copy like I did. And if you like her writing, make sure to check out The Diary of a Teenage Adult – Pandemic dating made me feel feelings I hadn’t felt in years by her, published by The Cut in August of 2021.

The Diary of a Teenage Adult by Dolly Alderton

🔗 thecut.com