I am a big fan of Alderton’s podcast, ‘Sentimental in the City’, which she cohosts with Caroline O’Donoghue. I also recently watched the series based on this book and found it a welcome trip down nostalgia lane. The girls living in a sharehouse, the interloping boyfriends, the crummy jobs, the loose nights. So I came to this book with good will and clean hands, I swear! But while this audio book covers much of the same territory as the tv series, it was somehow a far less enjoyable experience.
When I was at college, there was a special term bequeathed upon a select few who partied the hardest. Those that mixed their drinks and lost their nights to mayhem. They were called a ‘stain’ (short for ‘sh*t-stain’). As I listened to Alderton’s tale, the term – which I hadn’t thought of in years – came rushing back in the worst way.
I’m not sure this book should be titled ‘Everything I know about love‘ so much as ‘Every terrible thing I did for the LOLs and my eventual (but long overdue) journey to being a slightly less terrible human being, thanks to therapy and the incredible tolerance of others.’ For 80% of this book, the self-described Alderton within is The. Worst. Just a horrible, terrible friend. Reckless, selfish, jealous, impulsive, destructive. It was like she was on a one woman mission to blow up her life and everyone else’s. She took no joy in other’s successes. She intentionally made a spectacle of her self for nothing but the attention. She was unironically living the ‘cool girl’ life.
She’s not alone here. There is a time between 20 and 30 when everyone is at their worst. And perhaps if I’d been a little younger when I read this, I would have found her escapades more funny than infuriating, but she just drove me mad. I was so very ready for her redemptive arc that arrives towards the end, when she finally realises her behaviour is beyond the pale and takes steps to course correct. The novel is not all drunken mayhem either, there are some touching stories within. And Alderton does seem to mature and come into her own as time passes…
Interspersed between chapters, Alderton digresses with occasional recipes (good!) and judgemental asides (bad!). I appreciate a bit of snark now and then but good grief, there is some genuine pathos exhibited in these snippets. For instance, in one digression she writes a fictional interpretation of a destination wedding invitation, leaving you no doubt what she really thinks about people who dare to invite others to a small country town for a wedding ceremony. I think it’s trying for wry wit, but instead just sounds impossibly nasty. For all the progress she appears to make as she matures over the chapters, these little asides gave a frightening insight into what is actually still there, bubbling under the surface. Suffice to say, I would not want to be her friend.
Sometimes, it’s better to stick with the tv series.
2 cheap bottles of prosecco out of 5.