CONTEMPORARY

GHOSTS by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree £14.99, 352 pp)

GHOSTS by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree £14.99, 352 pp)

GHOSTS

by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree £14.99, 352 pp)

I’ve been excited about this debut novel from the author of 2018’s bestselling coming-of-age memoir, Everything I Know About Love, and am delighted to report it contains similar joys.

It starts with protagonist Nina Dean’s 32nd birthday and ends with her 33rd. Workwise, everything is going well for the successful food writer. Her love life, however, couldn’t be worse. Nina signs up to a dating app without much hope.

But her first date with Max, blows her mind, and it’s not long before they are a couple.

Three months of bliss follow but the day after he tells her he loves her for the first time, Max disappears without warning or explanation.

He refuses to answer her messages — Nina’s being ghosted and cannot fathom why. The ensuing emotional rollercoaster, complete with awful feelings of self-doubt and shame, often made me wince.

Alderton masterfully exposes the hideous reality of dating in your 30s and how unfair it can be on women who enter the fray in honesty and hope.

Other important relationships are also facing huge tests — Nina’s connection with her oldest friend is under strain as Katherine sinks into suburban mum life and has no energy left to care about Nina.

This is especially hard as Nina’s beloved dad has recently been diagnosed with dementia and she is desperate to talk it through with the girl who has known him for so long. Hugely emotionally intelligent and often very funny. I adored it.

BECAUSE OF YOU 

BECAUSE OF YOU by Dawn French (Michael Joseph £20, 416pp)

BECAUSE OF YOU by Dawn French (Michael Joseph £20, 416pp)

by Dawn French (Michael Joseph £20, 416pp)

This much-loved writer and actor is most famous for comedy sketch show French & Saunders and popular sitcom The Vicar Of Dibley.

In this, her fourth novel, Hope and Anna are in labour in the same maternity ward at the same time on the first day of the new millennium.

They lead very different lives but both are overjoyed about the prospect of motherhood.

Both give birth to daughters, but while Hope leaves hospital with a beautiful baby girl, Anna’s dreams are shattered.

French writes beautifully and with huge pathos about Anna’s unspeakable grief as well as Hope’s decision to bury a truth deep inside in order to survive.

When Hope’s daughter announces she is pregnant, Hope is thrilled but also knows this is when her house of cards starts unravelling.

Secrets always come out and this one has been waiting in the wings for such a long time, it’s almost a relief to get it off her chest.

It’s about mothers and daughters, good people doing bad things, whether or not mistakes define us and how hard, but ultimately freeing, it is to put right a long-ago wrong.

It’s warm, witty and wise and I raced through.

To buy any book reviewed here, visit mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 020 3308 9193 

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