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Culture Literature

Dolly Alderton’s debut fiction novel ‘Ghosts’: Modern dating under a microscope

Alderton’s writing is utterly engaging and she leaves you itching to know more by the end of every single chapter: I was completely engrossed and captivated by the book from start to finish. Ghosts exposes the uncomfortable truths about modern dating, from the unoriginal and cringy profiles on dating apps to the instant messaging creating a false sense of intimacy with someone you’ve met twice. The story follows Nina, a thirty-something-year-old woman exploring this world of dating, whilst simultaneously helping her father who is suffering from dementia.

The story explores a series of experiences involving ghosting. Ghosting refers to the situation whereby a partner stops all communication with you instead of having the ‘break-up’ conversation. This can also happen in casual relationships, where someone you have been dating or talking to suddenly stops replying. It is becoming increasingly prevalent in the dating scene due to the growing number of dating apps and choice.

Alderton illustrates how ghosting can make the victim feel confused and vulnerable. They are glued to their phone, praying for the person to suddenly return. Alderton draws parallels between this and Nina’s father losing his memory as he starts to forget who she is. She tries to find evidence that her own memories with him are real. In a similar way, ghosting can make you feel as though the relationship was non-existent, as their disappearance makes you question whether their feelings were genuine.  

Encapsulating the pressures women face in the dating world today, Alderton investigates the trope of ‘play hard to get, make him wait.’ She emphasises how difficult these messages are to adhere to when somebody is being forward and clearly wants to commit to you at the beginning of a romantic relationship.

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Lola, the protagonist, is similar to the person Alderton claims she used to be in her memoir Everything I Know About Love. Someone is always looking for a potential dateon the tube or in the supermarket; the kind of people who just ‘aren’t happy until they’re in a relationship.’ Alderton exemplifies how some people have their ‘token single friends’ (inviting them to hen-dos as they know singletons will stay out late, be spontaneous, and provide some ‘entertainment’). Otherwise, single people are excluded from seeing certain friends in particular contexts, such as double dating. Single women in particular are unfortunately viewed as sad and lonely when not in a committed relationship.

Alderton portrays how platonic relationships, even between different generations, can supply single people with the love and support you would get from a romantic relationship. Your friends can be your family, they can be there for you at the press of a button. Alderton exemplifies how not having a ‘significant other’ doesn’t have to lead to loneliness. Ghosts confirms that however much you know someone, people can always surprise you, in good and bad ways.

Image: Dolly Alderton on Instagram, @dollyalderton