Review: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

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Whilst it was released in October during the spooky season, Ghosts isn’t your average book of horror. I would personally go as far as saying it is scarier than a haunted house or a paranormal experience. The real horror of the book is being thirty and alone, ghosted by someone you opened up your life to, only never to hear from them again. 

Nina George Dean is a successful food writer, who decides on her 32nd birthday to try online dating for the first time. She is successful and independent, however, with all the other complexities of her life, she yearns for companionship and someone to share this amazing life she has built. Dolly taps into the zeitgeist of modern dating, perfectly encapsulating the scariness of putting yourself out there. Whether it be just for sex or to actually find love, meandering the world of Tinder and Bumble, or ‘Linx’ in Nina’s case, is not for the faint-hearted. Ghosts perfectly highlights the horrors of rejection, but true to Alderton, all the other wonders of love, writing so beautifully about female friendships and the love between these women. 

Not only does the novel’s title capture 21st-century ‘ghosting’ through Nina’s story it also relates to the ghosts of who we once were, who we might have been had life panned out differently, and how to plough on with some sort of hope that everything will work itself out. It explores the ghosts of her twenties and past female friendships, with Katherine and Nina gradually growing apart as their lives take different directions. Nina also struggles with the new relationships she now has with her parents, as her mother tries to change her identity, giving herself a new name, whilst her father is sadly fading away into dementia. I adored the cyclical prose of this novel beginning and ending on Nina’s birthday, taking us through a whole year of her life, as it felt like we, the readers, went through these experiences with her.

I have been waiting for this book’s arrival since the very last page of Dolly’s first book Everything I Know About Love, which has been my bible ever since I first read it. It is an anecdote especially to my first year at University, being ‘all about friendship’. Ghosts proved just as fulfilling and easy to devour. One of my favourite quotes from Ghosts being “It’s so hard to trace which memories are yours and which ones you’ve borrowed from photo albums and family folklore and appropriated as your own.” It made me realise how Dolly herself is like this for many of us readers, with the multitude of recommendations I receive from her podcast The High Low, as well as recounting stories from her memoir and columns to friends as if I know her. She has definitely influenced and nestled into my life and the lives of so many women, with Ghosts only adding to this. 

This is an empowering feminist book, analysing the nature of dating and friendship in your thirties, especially when everyone around you seems to have settled down. Through Nina, Dolly highlights that this ‘perfect’, predictable life has its flaws and that being in your thirties and single isn’t all that bad. It is extremely witty, precise and insightful and I encourage you all to go and read it. I am jealous of everyone yet to experience the wonders of Dolly’s writing who can delve into it, but if you are already a massive fan as I am, you will already know you are going to love it!

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