I decided to take a week away from my little space but I’m back!! With a midweek review of Ghosts.
Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.
A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.
Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.
I haven’t read any of Dolly Alderton’s writing before but since the start of the year I have been listening to a podcast that she hosts called The High Low. Of course, when Ghosts popped up I was really interested in reading it, to see if the witty and sharp insights that I’ve heard from her would translate into her fiction.
It most definitely did, Ghosts is full of intelligent observations on a range of topics that are very relatable. I love the way the different relationships were explored, it wasn’t just about Nina’s dating life, it was a look at female friendships and how complex they can be as priorities change, which I really loved because of how honest the interactions felt between the characters even when the relationships were under stress.
Familial relationships are another focus, how these evolve over the years from childhood to adulthood but also how difficult these can be when an illness changes the dynamic. I thought the authors handling of Nina’s father’s dementia and her mother’s reactions to the situation was perfect, it struck the right balance of being sensitive to the situation but also acknowledging the struggles of it.
For the first half of the book I liked that there were the more lighthearted and often funny aspects of Nina and Lola’s dating life that were set against the more serious issues of the book and the juxtaposition of that worked well.
However as the book continued I started to feel immeasurably bleak, as someone who is in a similar situation to Nina, single in their early thirties with friends all at different life stages, I wonder if maybe being so close to that situation kind of skewered the reading experience. I didn’t feel the reclamation of power and hope that I had thought I would feel, I think the end was supposed to give that feeling of female solidarity and I just didn’t get it.
There are many things that I enjoyed about this book, it has clever writing and relatable characters and whilst it didn’t leave me with the kind of reading experience that I hoped for I do think that Ghosts will hit the right note for many people.