[Dolly Alderton goes to university]
To this day, I am convinced that the three years I spent at Exeter left me more stupid than when I arrived. I did little to no work; I went from being a voracious bookworm to not reading a single page of a book that wasn’t a set text (and I don’t think I even finished one of those). From September 2006 to July 2009, all I did was drink and shag. All anyone did was drink and shag, pausing only briefly to eat a kebab, watch an episode of Eggheads or shop for a fancy-dress outfit for a ‘Lashed of the Summer Wine’ themed pub crawl….
I would deeply resent the years of my life wasted at Exeter were it not for the one thing that made the whole sorry experience worthwhile: the women I met. Within the first week, Farly and I found a gang of girls who would become our closest friends. There was Lacey, a gobby and gorgeous golden-haired drama student; AJ, a luminous brunette from a strict all-girls school who sang hymns when she got drunk; Sabrina, the charming blonde bull of life and wide-eyed enthusiasm. There was South London girl Sophie, red-headed, funny and boyish, always coming round to fix things in our flats. And then there was Hicks.
commentary: I’m somewhat at a loss: I can’t say I particularly liked this book, but then it probably isn’t aimed at me, but at much younger people. Dolly Alderton is a 29-year-old magazine writer, most famous for being the dating columnist on the Sunday Times. This is her memoir or autobiography. I imagine people in her age group will find plenty of things to recognize and enjoy, and plainly I didn’t. I thought she portrayed herself as fairly horrible, and something of a nightmare to be around. She had a huge drinking problem in her 20s, and some other issues.
Some of the memories I have are joyful, some of them are sad, and that was the reality. Sometimes I danced with a grin on my face until dawn in a circle of my closest friends, sometimes I fell over on the street running for the nightbus in the rain and lay on the wet pavement for far longer than I should have.I think the point of the book is that she has learned from what happened to her, and is wiser now. Well, yes, I should hope so. The book comes with a lot of raves, advance praise, so I don’t have to worry about what I say about it – no-one else will.
But it isn’t only my lack of empathy for the narrator that bothers me. The book feels cobbled together and unedited. And why are there extremely pedestrian recipes in it? They add nothing. I also think the writing is uninspired, and could have done with a shakeup. In the passage above, the line ‘all I did was drink and shag’ apparently HAS to be succeeded by the banal and predictable ‘All anyone did was drink and shag’. The list of her friends (my friends are better than your friends) is awful, like the pitch for a rubbish sitcom. ‘And then there was Hicks.’ That sentence structure should be banned. Really don’t want to know about feisty quirky Hicks in a new paragraph.
Anyway. She wrote her book, she got it published. The only parts I did enjoy were some short funny fictional piecees, where she parodied invitations, wedding planning and other parts of modern life. I liked those, so perhaps she will write a wonderful novel later…. But please, no more recipes.
Obviously I am an old person being mean about the younger generation. But sometimes I can manage to be nicer… and all the books below, in something like the same area, are recommended.
Last year I asked a (much younger) guest blogger to write about Cat Marnell’s How to Murder Your life – another book where the author is writing a memoir of a disastrous decade (this time in the USA) at a very early age. I liked that a lot more than I liked this one. And Barbara Bourland’s I’ll Eat when I’m Dead is fiction, but in a similar world, and I loved that.
Mikey Cuddihy wrote about her childhood and adolescence in A Conversation About Happiness.
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff is a fascinating memoir of a young woman working as a literary agent in New York.
Caitlin Moran writes wonderfully well about young women and her own life in both a memoir and in her novel How to Build a Girl.
Guest blogger Colm Redmond did posts on some memoirs by music goddesses like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and Viv Albertine of The Slits.