Book Review: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Review by Emily Fuller

When you begin to wonder if life is really just waiting for buses on Tottenham Court Road and ordering books you’ll never read off Amazon; in short, you are having an existential crisis. You are realizing the mundanity of life. You are finally understanding how little point there is to anything. You are moving out of the realm of fantasy ‘when I grow up’ and adjusting to the reality that you’re there; it’s happening. And it wasn’t what you thought it might be. You are not who you thought you would be.

Every once in a while, a reader stumbles across a book that glues them to the pages as they cannot help but feel like it has been intimately written for them just when they long for it most. This experience is something so uniquely spectacular from reader to reader, particularly as I am an absolutely radical believer in the power of a book that you read just at the right time in your life. Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love was exactly this for me – a tender source of comfort in a period of uncertainty and chaos.

Being a journalist and the former Sunday Times dating columnist, I wasn’t particular familiar with Dolly’s work and yet something compelled me to pick it up and give it a chance. In reading it, what I discovered was a memoir shimmering with the wit and tenderness that is without a sense of obtrusiveness. Something sweet and silly, and smart and serious. With a title as blatant as it is, and without having much knowledge of her background I assumed that this was a book about love with a capital L, that all-consuming Carrie Bradshaw type – though I was proved incorrect. Sure, there are anecdotes for lousy dates and failed relationships, but what I found was that the book was full of love in all of its varied and wild guises that were typically far from romantic.

Rather than your standard memoir, this is a fierce-hearted ode to the overarching power of female friendship and its absolute necessity in navigating the uncomfortable tumultuousness that is your twenties. Almost all of Dolly’s meditations on what it means to build a meaningful life and to learn to be content within yourself circle back to the incomprehensible adoration and support she has for her friends; an intimate group of women who live with and live for each other, and also fight with and fight for each other. I was totally awestruck by Dolly’s eloquent candour in expressing her love and gratitude that she has held for these women over the years, as she unveils the grittier and unhealthier moments in which her self-esteem or lack thereof collides with her relationships.

In offering up this kind of transparency on the function of obsession, Dolly writes a quietly heartbreaking yet darkly comical reflection on the blurring of intensity and intimacy that sent me reeling and forcing me to question my own ideas of what it means to express and accept affection. With a cautionary tale of an insane and all-engrossing relationship that she has almost entirely over text and ends colossally dramatic, I was staunchly reminded just how vital it is to make a separation between these two facets of love as they are not mutually exclusive in maintaining a healthy and loving relationship.

All in all, Everything I Know About Love was a profoundly intimate reading experience for me in which I laughed so much until I cried and I will always feel immensely grateful for it. It isn’t merely a book just about love – but rather it is about the intricacies of growing older and navigating platonic relationships during a time of your life where romantic relationships are often at the forefront of everyone’s list of priorities. What I learned more than anything in reading this was that I will never reach a point in my life where I will know everything about love – and that thought alone has the power to make the process of growing older that much more joyful and exhilarating.

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