Review of Dolly Alderton’s Good Material – a witty and heartwarming tale with a charm reminiscent of Hornby.
Olly Alderton has a knack for drawing inspiration from personal moments in her life. In her popular memoir, Everything I Know About Love, she candidly shares the lessons she learned about love in her tumultuous 20s. Even in her debut novel, Ghosts, the story closely mirrors her own experiences as a young writer using dating apps to find a meaningful connection. However, Alderton’s second novel, Good Material, takes a different approach as it explores heartbreak as a source of creativity through the eyes of a male protagonist.
Andy, a 35-year-old aspiring comedian, was dumped by his girlfriend Jen after three years, ten months, and 29 days. He describes it as her “smashing his heart like a sinewy pinata”. She claims she wants to be single, but he doubts her and believes that if he can uncover the true reason, they may still get back together.
While constantly fixating on his bald spot, attempting to jumpstart his career, and facing the challenges of living in London without Jen’s corporate salary, Alderton indulges in intense cyberstalking. He also adds humor to his observations about life in your thirties, such as the feeling of always arriving at the worst possible time when visiting friends with young children.
She also presents some believable principles, educating readers on “The Flip” (the shift in dominance that happens in each doomed relationship) or the 90/10 rule (rebounders will inevitably be drawn to individuals who possess the crucial 10% that their otherwise great exes lacked).
There’s a distinctly Hornbyesque charm to her well-meaning characters and their relatable dramas. The dialogue is excellent throughout and the prose, consistently solid, sometimes gleams. Here’s Andy recalling the moment Jen kissed him for the first time: “I felt tiny and enormous; like I was her toy and her king.”
His unsuccessful romantic experiences will ultimately lead to his personal growth, but the book ends with a brief section narrated by Jen. This clever technique effectively ties up loose ends and emphasizes the story’s determination to challenge traditional and conservative themes in romantic literature.
The book “Good Material” by Dolly Alderton is released by Fig Tree at a price of £16.99. To assist the Guardian and Observer, you can purchase your own copy at guardianbookshop.com. Additional fees may be applied for delivery.