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Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Nina is 32, a successful food writer working on her third book, finally owns property in London – even though it is a bit shabby and has a weird neighbour – and, contrary to most of her friends, very single. While everyone around her get married, has children and moves to the suburbs, she is constantly reminded of time dwindling and she cannot hope for support from her parents, with a dad who is increasingly afflicted by dementia and a mother trying to reinvent herself. When Nina finally listens to her (only single) friend’s advice and downloads a dating app, she quickly meets a man who seems just perfect. Max is an appealing combination of wild and civilised - stuck in an accountant job, he uses every free time he get to be outdoors and active. But most importantly: he tells her on the first date that he is going to marry her.

What unfolds is a story of heart-break and friendship, of getting lost and being found, of nostalgia and optimism. Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is a tale of accurate observation. She lovingly analyses what it means to be a millennial in London, surrounded by high-achievers, unrealistic expectations, a focus on self-realisation (whatever that might mean) and technologies that seek to organise every aspect of our lives. The novel deals with different ghosts – the slow loss of someone vanishing in dementia, ghosting on dating-apps, the ghosts of friendships that are becoming less and less of what they once were as people grow apart. Alderton’s style is readable and relatable though at times a little clichéd, perhaps too stereotypically modern. Ghosts is clever and reflective, full of the wonderful British humour that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While for me both characters and plot very a occasionally lacking in substance, overall it was an easy-going, enjoyable read, with some very charming scenes.

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