Dolly Alderton is one half of the fabulous ‘Sentimental Garbage’ podcast duo. who I fell in love with through their deep-dives into Sex and the City. Once Alderton’s voice was in my head, it was easy to shift gears from podcast to fiction and embrace her novel Ghosts which, in many ways, felt like it could have been a re-imagining of Sex and the City, circa London in 2020. Or maybe an updated Bridget Jones Diary.
As the title indicates, Ghosts tackles the singularly horrific experience of being ‘ ghosted’ – when someone you have forged a bond with just…. disappears. The novel follows Nina Dean, an accomplished food writer in her early thirties who feels ready to start a relationship. She’s been in love before and is no fool. She has a healthy social life, a rewarding career, and her own flat. She’s weighed up her options and made the conscious decision to try dating. Many of her friends are coupled up and breeding, but she is in no rush to join the Smug Married ranks. There is no sad desperation here. She’s not husband-hunting. She’s just ready to share her life with a special someone.
And she meets him, without even expending too much effort! Max. Woodsy, manly, good banter. They click. It’s easy.
… But the title gives the ‘but’ away, doesn’t it?
Ghosting is a cruel and unusual punishment for a person. It’s nothing short of emotional abuse. And once it happens to you, you are forever changed. The foundation of the human experience is trust, and nothing can obliterate your ability to trust in quite the same way as being ghosted. And for the ghosting to be done by a lover or a dear friend – that is a wound that never truly heals.
Nina Dean’s evolution through Ghosts is not just shaped by her experience with Max. The titular ‘Ghosts’ also references her father as his health begins to fail, and the shadows of her friendships forged in years gone by that, with a slowly dawning realisation, she finally sees have reached a natural end. Ghosts of your happy memories and good times together remain, but are not enough. At some point, there must be something more than merely a shared history. The ghosts of our former selves and those of our friends and family can haunt our lives.
I would challenge any woman in her 30s to read Ghosts and not see some painful reflections within. This is a time when parent’s fall ill, friendships shift and fade, and new ‘units’ are formed. And for that reason – for Alderton’s ability to capture a moment in time so well – I give this book a solid 4 frosty pints out of 5.