Ghosts, by Dolly Alderton
It can be tough to write a novel mainly dissecting the love and relationships that occur in your early 30s without making it sickly sweet or drearily cliché, but Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts has pulled it off.
Alderton gives us Londoner Nina Dean, celebrating her 32nd birthday. We know she is successful as a food writer as she actually can afford to own her own flat (although it’s in Archway, let’s not get too excited) . She is working, happy, has lots of friends, life’s good, and so, she signs up to dating app Linx.
Alderton is comically harsh but fair as she deconstructs online courtship – there’s a long list of stereotypical bad choices, until a man named Max comes along. He’s charming, he’s employed, which is helpful. He’s handsome and he actually shows up for their first date, so game on. Or is he too good to be true?
Ghosts: Dating and Living in Your 30s
Alongside of this quest for the perfect man, real life continues in all of its messiness. Nina navigates older parents slipping into decline, and the social minefield of life in your thirties.
We all know that being a twentysomething is mostly enjoying a group of friends all in the same boat – finishing university, starting jobs and experiencing the thrill of first apartments and finally having money. Ten years later, those same crazy people with whom you closed down bars are now tsktsking your antics as they exhaustedly chase a toddler around. This tricky transitional phase of early thirties life, when friendship groups splinter and shift and life choices are examined and defended, is handled very well.
For example, Nina’s friend Katherine, pregnant with her second child, is moving to the suburbs and leaving Nina behind with a social gap to fill. Is it time she, too, settled down? Is Nina looking for love to quiet the memory of an ex that never really went away? Is she still a daughter when she is the one caring for her parents?
The ghost of youth lingers even when the reality of youth is gone (and these people are nly in their thirties – they have no idea what’s coming!) Ghosts is a novel about facing up to reality, and Alderton makes it very pleasant.
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.