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I spend a lot of time reading books, as well as writing and thinking about them. Of course I check out the reviews on Bookreporter. I watch BookTube creators. I subscribe to Bookstagram influencers and hope that my next ride through TikTok takes me to BookTok instead of KardashianTok. I take pictures of people’s TBR piles because lined-up book spines look like beautiful art to me (an idea brought to life by the artist Jane Mount). By hearing what everyone is reading, I get ideas about the next 20 books that I will add to my personal collection (for when I get the house that has the Hogwarts library in it with the staircases and everything).

On all of these platforms, I have heard about GHOSTS by Dolly Alderton, which is a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Prize and is one of my favorite books of the year. At 32, Nina Dean has survived the end of her first long-term relationship only to find herself ready to jump back into the dating pool. As her friends get married, start having kids and change up their lifestyles, she has no choice but to turn her attention to finding a suitable mate for herself.

"Dolly Alderton is funny, and she has the same kind of engaging conversational writing style that has made Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones characters who will live in infamy."

A resident of London, Nina makes a full-time career writing about food, publishing a cookbook that got some traction, contracting to a weekly food column in the papers and finishing up her second book. Her parents live outside the city in a nice London suburb. Her mother is a middle-aged beauty trying to live her best middle-aged life, while her father is a much older former professor who is having trouble remembering that you can’t toast the daily newspaper. Nina’s good run is about to end when she gets ghosted by the first guy she has agreed to meet from the dating app she tries with her friends’ approval.

Dolly Alderton is funny, and she has the same kind of engaging conversational writing style that has made Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones characters who will live in infamy. Nina’s sly musings about her friends’ changing lives clearly and hilariously send up the hypocrisy of newly married couples, which is always the subject of female thirtysomething-in-the-city books. But Nina has other big things on her mind --- her father’s Alzheimer's diagnosis and her mother ignoring it, her career, and how marriage and the specter of it is changing her long-lasting friendships. As Alderton navigates the unmarried world of today’s London, she teaches all of us some lessons about grace under pressure and how “adulting,” while not fun, can be quite rewarding if you let yourself give into its pull.

Every generation needs a heroine that has her Doc Martens on the ground and her head in a battle between reality and perceived reality. Nina is a fresh, smart and funny protagonist who finds some truly graceful (and not-so-graceful) ways to grow up for real.

As the world continues to unravel on the outside, a book like GHOSTS is gold. It is not just a beach read, though. Put on your big person pants, and ride the waves of humor and relatability into a wonderful story about a young woman whose entire life is transforming. Like all of us, Nina must learn to sail these ever-changing seas --- with a mixture of fun, anxiety and jubilation. GHOSTS is magic. Read it now.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on August 7, 2021

by Dolly Alderton