A Sunday Times columnist draws her coming-of-age story with tender flair.
“We were the worst type of students imaginable. We were reckless and self-absorbed and childish and violently carefree. We were Broken Britain,” writes Alderton, a TV writer and co-host of the podcast The High Low, in this incisive tribute to women’s friendships. The collection gathers essays from a variety of eras of her life: her teen years, when she attended an all-girls school, cemented her fascination with boys, and dreamed about being a grown-up (“I was desperate to be an adult”); her chaotic 20s, which proved some of her fantasies wrong; and the dawning of her 30s, when she found some semblance of wisdom. The narrative is also a splendid mashup of recipes (“hangover mac and cheese”), hyperbolic group e-mails mocking the smugness of the coupled and the resentment of singles; and lively recollections on everything from awkward online encounters to body image and blackout drunkenness. Alderton paints British suburbia in hypercolor while drawing herself as a woman who’s prone to excess. How her view of love matured is steeped in anxious charm, striking a clever balance between painful humor and self-forgiveness. “Dating had become a source of instant gratification, an extension of narcissism, and nothing to do with connection with another person,” she writes. “Time and time again, I had created intensity with a man and confused it with intimacy.” But it’s the author’s relationship with best friend Farly—“there isn’t a pebble on the beach of my history that she has left unturned. She knows where to find everything in me and I know where all her stuff is too”—that inspires the most poetic passages. Whether excavating the turmoil of seeing Farly fall in love and get her heart broken, writing about the significance of her support when Farly’s sister died, or revisiting the many everyday moments that have made up their 20 years together, Alderton’s portrait exemplifies love.
A poignant breath of fresh air for those who struggled—or are struggling—with the dramedy of early adulthood.