Female Friendships and Self-Love: a Memoir of Lessons

*Content warning: this book contains a chapter on cancer and death.

Irreverently witty, funny, and heartfelt, Everything I Know About Love is an excellent handbook for navigating life. 

With the key cornerstones of friendship, boyfriends, parents, siblings, friends who become family, work, career and university being at the heart of this book, it is certainly one can relate to.  

The memoir, penned by Dolly Alderton (whose writing is quite simply, beautiful), tracks Dolly’s life from her earliest days transitioning into adolescence, her teenage years, life at university, and throughout her twenties, ending with her 30th birthday.  

With much testament to Dolly’s writing, you almost feel like you know her and have lived through these experiences with her. The book is honest, self-reflective and above all provides self-affirmation – that you are enough. 

The first chapter, ‘Everything I Knew About Love as a Teenager,’ highlights the idealistic and romanticised version of love we all envisioned at a young age. Dolly’s writing in this chapter, and subsequently throughout the whole book, is almost shockingly honest.  

No moment in my life will ever be as embarrassing as when I tried to kiss Sam Leeman and he pulled away from me and I fell over.” 

– Dolly alderton, everything i know about love

The tone of relatability and embarrassment that emanate from the pages highlight how Dolly’s writing can and should resonate with everyone.  

The book then progresses with similar and related chapter titles, ‘Everything I Knew About Love at Twenty-One,’ ‘Everything I Knew About Love at Twenty-Five,’ ‘Reasons to Have a Boyfriend and Reasons Not to Have a Boyfriend,’ ‘Twenty-eight Lessons Learnt in Twenty-eight Years,’ ‘Everything I Know About Love at Twenty-eight,’ and an extended version with the chapter, ‘Everything I Know About Love at Thirty.’  

Each chapter is gut-wrenchingly sincere and genuine, with Dolly exposing and shedding light on her feelings during a particular moment in her life.  

It is a book which can and does provide so many lessons for growing up as a woman and finding your way in the world.  

Dolly’s sincerity shines through the page, particularly when writing about her best friend, Farly.  

Nothing luckier has ever happened in my life than the day Farly sat next to me in a maths lesson in 1999.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

One of the beauties of this book is how Dolly shows that love does not only have to mean romantic love. The love from female friendships, and the friends which have, in turn, become family, drive this story. From reading this book, it was Dolly’s friends from which she turned to for advice and support. It seems that this type of love – the one forged by years of shared memories and experiences – is the one that is always there. 

This is most certainly true when Dolly talks about the displacement she felt when Farly fell in love and had a boyfriend of her own; 

A reminder that no matter what we lose, no matter how uncertain and unpredictable life gets, some people really do walk next to you forever.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

Dolly doesn’t just talk about romantic love and the foundation of love in female friendships. Self-love and having an idea of your sense of self is a topic particularly laced throughout this book. For me, self-love is the backdrop to this book.  

Carving out your own identity and developing a sense of self-worth is a journey – and Dolly reflects that beautifully.  

“…the love someone gives you will be a reflection of the love you give yourself. If you can’t treat yourself with kindness, care and patience, chances are someone else won’t either.” 

– dolly alderton, everything i know about love

The love you have for yourself is the most important kind you can have. Discovering yourself along the journey of life, love and relationships is key to developing a sense of self-love and worth. 

For me, ‘Everything I Know About Love,’ is a powerhouse of a book. Dolly’s life lessons, advice and tips are written so straightforwardly and in such an engaging way, that it was difficult to put this book down. 

Her years of making mistakes throughout her twenties and teenage years have resulted in a book which has spoken to a generation of women. Learning from these experiences has made Dolly an exquisite writer.  

The popularity of ‘Everything I Know About Love,’ has also led to a BBC drama adaptation. With seven episodes, the series sums up this memoir in its entirety and showcases just how poignant this book really is.  

Personally, this book is an insight into multiple life lessons, for which I am extremely grateful Dolly shared. It shows that love comes in many different forms, from different avenues and unexpected corners of life.  

It is a story, ultimately, of growing up. Through self-deprecation, wit, humour and total honesty, Dolly has created a book which will continue to teach us about the importance of love. Be it romantic or self-love – but most certainly, about the power of love from female friendship.  

Published by Grace Foster

Grace is a student journalist with a love for reading, writing, history, music and books.

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