Ghosts is the first novel from popular journalist and broadcaster Dolly Alderton and is the follow up to the bestselling memoir Everything I Know About Love.
Nina is a 30-something Londoner with a successful career and not-so-successful personal life. With a nudge from well-meaning friend Lola, she decides to try dating apps and, whilst her father slowly fades away into dementia, learns some difficult lessons about men, love, friendship and what it means to be ‘ghosted’ by someone you thought you knew.
Firstly, let me just say that this book is snort-out-loud funny. I often find I relate to these increasingly popular books about women of a certain age living in London because I was one of them once upon a time, but this story in particular had me bursting into impromptu lols which I then had to try to explain to my husband who inevitably didn’t get it.
I love Nina, and must assume that she is somewhat biographical of this incredible author, or at the very least a mash up of people she has known through her life. No-one could describe this world with such accuracy without having lived in it!
As well as being an escape from the everyday, and a riotous one at that, there is a deeper level to this story which we begin to see when Nina talks of her father. Another thing I relate to as I am very much a ‘Daddy’s Girl’ myself. The devastating toll that dementia takes on him and their relationship is palpable. This is something I am eternally grateful that I couldn’t relate to, but the way it was delivered was respectful and educating as well as heart-breaking.
My favourite character is Lola – everyone needs a friend like this. She’s wild, funny, smart, but above all reliable and sincere. Her own disastrous dating history enlightens and entertains and the ‘Schadenfreude Shelf’ with which Nina and Lola comfort each other is a stroke of genius.
As may be expected from a book centred around characters of this age, there is talk of babies and pregnancies, but the thing that struck me about it was that although Nina wants children, there is no assumption that she will get them. While still in the realm of possibility for Nina to find a partner, get married and have children, it is by no means a given and for me the beauty of this is in the not knowing. As we in the childless community know all too well, there is no guarantee of a baby within the ‘happy ever after’. I’m grateful to Dolly Alderton for incorporating this into the novel and must admit I feel a certain kinship with her for doing so. If there is any element of this that strikes a cord, rest assured that the childless community is an inviting one, and whilst we understand that no-one really wanted to be a part of it, we are here for you if you find that you are.
Click here to read an interview with the author in which she talks about not being able to control whether someone will meet a a partner and have children – something I’ve found is not discussed often enough.
As mentioned above, there are babies and pregnancies in the book. Nina has a difficult friendship with one of the other characters which revolves around their inability to understand each other – one a mother, the other not. This is something that may ring true for many readers; it certainly did for me.