For many of us, our twenties are often one of the most chaotic periods of our lives. Invariably ricocheting from exuberant highs to devastating lows, life can be pretty bewildering. One person who has made sense of her experience through this tumultuous decade is journalist Dolly Alderton with her first book, Everything I know About Love. A memoir that touches on friendship, family and relationships, it is a tome that is sure to resonate with women of all ages. As part of Fine Reads, we sat down with Dolly to find out more about her debut title, the importance of openness and what’s next for her.
If you’re a reader of publications like Red, The Sunday Times Style and Marie Claire, or have ever listened to podcast The High Low, chances are you’ll know who Dolly Alderton is. Known for her wit and honesty (she used to have her own dating column), Dolly is one of those rare writers who has a knack of being relatable, funny and unpretentious. It is these qualities that she has transferred to Everything I know About Love. ‘I think I made a conscious decision to tell certain stories I’d never written before,’ explains Dolly. ‘I’d been asked to write about them on a handful of occasions, but I wanted to save them for my eventual book because I needed to get out the other side of those experiences and make sense of what had happened and what I’d learnt.’
It is in making sense of past events that has enabled Dolly to be so honest in her book. It often feels as if no stone in her personal life is left unturned. ‘I found it difficult to write about some of the intensity and chaos and drama and insecurity that filled my earlier twenties. Remembering who that person was was quite easy as, relatively speaking; it really wasn’t that long ago. But characterising that person both vividly and truthfully often felt uncomfortable and embarrassing.’
While it may have felt uncomfortable and embarrassing for Dolly to write about, the result is that – as a reader – her younger self feels believable and real. You empathise with her and even when her decisions may seem outlandish, they make sense in their own way. There are, however, particular sections which must have been uncomfortable reading for some, namely her parents. Luckily, their reaction was one thing Dolly did not have to consider. ‘My mum was one of my first readers – she’s a fantastic writer and editor and I always really value her opinion. They’re both very non-judgemental people, I’m very lucky. When I first started writing my dating column I told my dad I hated the thought of him reading it and he reassured me he’d done it all before.’
Another support – both now and in the book – are Dolly’s friends. In fact, friendship is one of the strongest themes. The relationships are so strong that these people feel as familiar to the reader as Dolly does. Not only do we share their triumphs with them, but also their lows, which is something Dolly was very aware of. ‘There was no question in my mind that I couldn’t write about my friends without asking for their permission. I never want to be someone for whom good copy takes precedent over the people I care about. They’re all very supportive people and they trusted me to write the truth.’ So much so that her friend Farly – who went through a series of heart-breaking events in an extremely short space of time – had only one gripe with the first draft: that Dolly had said she answered her phone whilst driving. ‘That was her one edit note.’
Yet despite this network of loved ones, Dolly – like the estimated eight million other people in the UK – has spent a portion of her twenties battling anxiety. ‘It took me a really long time to realise I’m not someone who can lollop through life in a totally care-free way and bounce back from anything that’s thrown at them.’ Her description of this time is so vivid that you feel like you’re sat with her and the counsellor: both of you willing her on. She has found ways to deal with it though. ‘I’ve had to work out coping mechanisms, boundaries, discipline of thoughts and a sort of routine that allows me to experience the ups and downs of day to day life without being drowned by it.’
Inspiringly, none of this seems to have held Dolly back if her 2018 schedule is anything to go by. ‘I am going to try to adapt the book for TV, I’m launching a podcast series in which I interview people about love, I’m writing for The Sunday Times Style and I’m continuing to co-host The High Low.’ As if that isn’t enough to try and fit in, there is one more thing high on Dolly’s agenda. ‘I’d also like to learn to drive.’ If what she’s achieved so far is anything to go by, we think she’ll probably do it.
Everything I know About Love is published by Penguin and is available now in hardback, eBook and audio download.
Photography by Michelle Beatty