What do I know about love?
Admittedly, very little.
I know there are a million different types of love, if not more. There’s familial love, friendship, pets (although some will argue pets count as family). There is romantic love, love you hate to feel, love you long to feel. There’s the love you feel for your favourite character, that ‘soft spot’ you hold for the cute barista in your local coffee shop. There is the love that hides in the furthest corner of your mind for the person you wish you could have, but know you can’t. Or the love that leaps out whenever you’re around them. It is the reflection of yourself in the water as you walk across your favourite beach. It is in the kiss goodbye in the hospital ward before the machines are switched off. It is the laughter with the bartender who ‘just got you’. It is the free fall of a bungee jump, hair wrapped around your face and adrenaline pumping through your veins. It is the silence as you’re immersed in your favourite book.
Love is a million things and more.
Everything I Know About Love is an intriguing collection of nostalgic essays on love, female friendship and growing up. Alderton perfectly conjures stories of love, life and partying from memories that are emotional and, in some ways, innocent.
Across the cover, the title of the collection is heavily edited. It is titled, ‘everything I know about
parties, dates, friends, jobs, life, love’. An interesting but important decision, everything listed is a focal point in Alderton’s essays.
It is not just a collection of essays on love but on life itself. On the parties she went to, of the dates she has been on, of the friends she has found and lost. Love is a million things and more, it is life. So, it is impossible to write a book on love without talking about the rest. But Alderton doesn’t just include essays; she includes letters, recipes and even lists, all tied into the theme. Hangover recipes, invites to parties, everything is telling a story in this collection and it’s all from Alderton’s life.
What can I say about Everything I Know About Love apart from it being an honest exploration of sexuality, romance, friendship and life?
The unapologetic sexual honesty is actually what made me love this collection in all its truth. It is not crude or vivid, Alderton doesn’t describe in detail every sexual encounter she has ever had, but it is open. Alderton does not shy away from her sexuality or her sexual experiences. No, she invites you in, to discuss them, to ponder the deeper emotions, to experience all that she has. That is the point of non-fiction essays; they want you to experience what they have, and they want you to immerse yourself in their world as you would any other fiction novel or love-lorn poem. This collection does this in a way so different from others, the brutal honesty doesn’t shy away from the negative stereotypes, the judgemental attitudes, or even the bad sides of the truth itself. You can see that so clearly in these essays, it’s something you can’t hide from because Alderton is not trying to hide.
The essays are arranged in order as though Alderton had been writing them as she went. And, for all I know, she had been. In fact, the final essay, focussing on her life turning 30, is an extra addition to the collection. What I loved most about this organisation of essays is the nostalgia associated with the beginnings. The mention of MSN took me back to my own childhood, creating a familiarity when reading.
It also demonstrates an interesting parallel. To read the first essay and then read the last, there is a major shift in mindset. The book opens with an essay on love as a teenager and just reading it, it is as though you are listening to a teenager. Romantic love is the most important thing, it often is for a teenager. But the final essay flips this because, as you get older, you realise there are far more important things in life.
Alderton’s ability to convey emotion is brilliant. Towards the final essay, death and illness are topics full of emotion that dripped off the pages with the words. There was nowhere to hide from it, you had to feel it just as Alderton and all those involved did. Like I said, Alderton wasn’t trying to hide in her essays, which meant you weren’t allowed to hide either. Facing these emotions in their purest form but including humour with ease when it was needed. You were never left burdened with heavy emotions, Alderton was perfectly able to make you face the bad stuff but bring you back with the good, a yo-yo of emotion that kept the writing captivating.
With all that being said…
Like any collection of essays, poems or even a novel, there are times when parts just aren’t as strong as the rest. Some poems may be a bit duller, some chapters might feel a bit mundane, and there were some essays in this collection that were weaker than the rest. Perhaps my interest in them just wasn’t sparked, either because I found them unrelatable or they just weren’t to my interest. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a criticism of the author or the writing, but I did feel, in these particular essays (although I assure you, there definitely weren’t many), the writing could have been improved to make it more exciting.
For example, at times they did drag. Information I didn’t feel was necessarily important made the story being told a little boring. This occasionally happened in several essays I liked, but the rest of them made up for that.
I also occasionally lost track of the characters and who they were. Perhaps it was my attention slipping, I did sometimes have to re-read some previous essays to be reminded. There were some characters not mentioned and introduced as if we already knew them. An interesting choice, not necessarily a terrible one, but one I didn’t get on with. However, these are essays, not a novel, and as much as they worked in telling one large story, they are still individual writings and therefore, there wasn’t a need to introduce everyone in the same way.
Everything I Know About Love is a perfect example of how to write a riveting collection of essays on life, love and everything in between.
From her teenage years to turning thirty, Alderton masterfully depicts her life in a way that’s relatable and often funny. Although other reviews have commented on the parties becoming repetitive in the collection, I found this to be one of the more relatable aspects. Although, perhaps that’s down to the fact that I am currently in that stage of my own life.
Everything I Know About Love is available on Amazon
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