The former Sunday Times dating columnist shares the highs and lows of her twenties spent in London in her heartbreakingly honest memoir. She talks about her dreams of writing fiction, the importance of female friendship, and her favourite song about love…
Everything I Know About Love is the kind of book countless young women will press into their friends’ hands with the words: “Read this so we can talk about it.”
I should know because after meeting Alderton at a book signing in Waterstones, I did exactly this.
The book is written with the kind of warmth that has seen her described as “Nora Ephron for the Tinder generation” by the FT. Its honesty will have you nodding furiously in recognition, as she describes everything from drug-fuelled nights out and drunken mistakes to her recipe for the perfect pan of scrambled eggs, and the occasionally ugly realities of jealousy, grief and loss; always in unflinching detail.
On the writing process, she said: “I particularly love reading autobiographical nonfiction and memoir so it was always a dream for me; to pull together various relationships and stories and lessons learnt in the course of my life so far to create a book-long narrative and hope that it connects with other people’s experiences, or least just makes them laugh.”
She adds: “I’d love to write fiction, but that’s something I’ve never tried before and a craft I have to try to learn and understand much better before I do, so it won’t be something I’d be keen to do in a rush.”
What would you say is the most important thing you know now about love and why?
“You should never have to be anything other than yourself in love. Not with friends, not for a job you’re passionate about, not for a romantic partner. Intimacy only happens when you are being true to who you are and you allow yourself to relax into that and let other people see it.”
Fans of Alderton’s podcast, The High Low – presented alongside fashion journalist Pandora Sykes – will be familiar with her ability to skip from topics from the lofty to the lowbrow, without glossing over serious subjects or elevating the silly.
This approach chimes perfectly with the way she recounts her experiences, layering the narrative’s sometimes painful moments with humour and light. While much of the emotional weight of the book comes from Alderton’s own life, she also borrows from those around her, and her best friend, Farly, is a central figure.
This borrowing is a process she went about carefully, saying: “I always ask people first.
“And I’m very lucky, all my friends were happy for me to share our stories. I always checked it was okay, then they always got the final check before I sent it to my publisher. One of my worst nightmares is ever putting the story above someone I love, I’m careful to avoid it.
“I wrote a lot about my best friend Farly and the only thing she objected to is that I incorrectly recalled her taking a phone call while driving, which apparently she would never do.”
Do you have a favourite quote about love?
“All I really really want our love to do, is to bring out the best in me and in you,
I wanna talk to you, I wanna shampoo you, I wanna renew you again and again,
Applause, applause, life is our cause, when I think of your kisses my mind seesaws…”
[Joni Mitchell, All I Want]
The impact of Alderton’s writing makes you feel as though you’re listening to an old friend pour their heart out – and this sense of connection is something she says was intentional.
“I think we place such a premium on romantic love culturally that it means we often don’t see our own most enduring love stories reflected in writing or art – I think for a lot of women these love stories are found in their female friendships.
“I also think a lot of women in their twenties feel left behind, or like they’re doing the journey of life all wrong or missing the milestones – and I cover a lot of that feeling of inadequacy in my book.”
It’s certainly a relatable message.
And those books I bought? Three copies. One for me, one for a friend who I see almost every day, and another for one who I have to save up for the ferry to visit.
And as I was wrapping them up to give to them, I thought of Alderton’s words about her best friend Farly: “In over fifteen years, I have never gone more than a few hours without thinking about her…” and I thought about our rarely inactive Whatsapp group, the tears shed on each others’ sofas, joyful nights out dancing, and the near constant drip-feed of support that has made all of our lives easier to live.
Alderton thinks love stories are found in female friendships – and I think she’s right.