Ghosts | Dolly Alderton

In the post-Fleabag era, single girl lit has a tough act to follow. Ghosts isn’t a bad attempt.

The ghosts in question are the central character Nina’s incredible vanishing boyfriend, and her father, who’s in the early stages of dementia and gradually parting ways with reality. Neither can provide the emotional terra firma that men should apparently be able to supply, while bonds with women friends are diminished by children, distance, the passing of time etc. Nothing too groundbreaking in terms of material there, and there’s nothing very memorable about Nina, other than for a food writer, she seems to have no interest in food and never actually writes. The satire is gently mocking rather than caustic – the hen weekend, the lavish wedding, dating site profiles, modern parenting – all the entirely mockable try-hard personal branding and performative authenticity of the present day, and Dolly Alderton often finds a bulls-eye turn of phrase.

The family tragedy is tragic and well done, but I didn’t feel any great interest in or sympathy for Nina. Despite the ho-hum ingredients, occasional implausibility and slightly laboured observational humour, it was overall quite an enjoyable read. Nina’s reconciliation with change and loss is unschmaltzy and feels truthful, which is an achievement, and probably a greater one than being terribly original or hilarious.

Advance reader copy supplied by NetGalley.