Remember the days of MSN Messenger and dial-up internet? A match made in heaven, the two are synonymous with pre-teen life for every Millennial. Journalist and former dating columnist at The Sunday Times Style Dolly Alderton begins her debut novel Everything I Know About Love by explaining how the online chat forum defined her early teenage years and her introduction to romance.
The intimate book charts Alderton’s experiences of love from her teens until the present, with each period punctuated by a list of everything she knew about love at this age. The lists are funny and universally recognisable as beliefs many of us have carried throughout our own lives. Alderton hilariously and unflinchingly recounts her own dating history, from first boyfriends to bad dates, good dates and holiday flings, offering up her experiences for the reader to illustrate lessons she has learned.
Alderton’s experiences of love aren’t limited to the romantic. Her female relationships with friends she has known since childhood and at university are what really stand out as the great love stories of the book. Extravagantly wild tales from university followed by stories of a shared house in London, fall-outs, make-ups and misadventures are all documented in equal measure, eclipsing the romantic love stories and bad date chronicles as a breath-taking portrayal of female friendship.
The book has a triumphant end, with a view of Dolly living alone, going on holiday alone and enjoying her female friendships as the great romances of her life. The final chapter is a glorious ode to her friends’ individual quirks and the nuances of her relationships with them, depicting this love as the most influential.
It is impossible to read this book and not see a little bit of yourself in it. For anyone who has whiled away the hours on MSN Messenger, checked their phone obsessively, had the same best friend for 10+ years or even felt lost, Alderton’s book is a funny and touching reflection of love in all its forms.