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Your first look at Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

If you add one title to your reading list this autumn, make it Dolly Alderton’s latest release Ghosts. Following the massive success of Everything I Know About Love, Alderton turns her hand to fiction, with an entertaining and thoughtful narrative that delves into relationships and how we live today. Unfamiliar with her work? We’ve managed to get our hands on an extract to give you a feel for the new novel.

On the day I was born, 3rd August 1986, ‘The Edge of Heaven’ by Wham! was number one. Since I can remember, an annual tradition was playing it as loud as possible as soon as I woke up. I remember all the birthdays of my childhood through the sound of George Michael’s defiant ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’s in the opening bars – jumping on my mum and dad’s bed in my pyjamas, eating sprinkle sandwiches for breakfast. It is why my middle name is George – Nina George Dean. This mortified me throughout my adolescence when my flat chest and certain jaw gave me a masculine enough energy without also being named after an ageing male pop star. But like all abnormalities and embarrassments of childhood, adulthood recalibrated them into a fascinating identity CV. The weird middle name, the birthday breakfast sandwich spread thick with margarine and dipped in hundreds and thousands – all of it strung together to form my own unique mythology, which I would one day speak of with bewildered pride to airtime and intrigue.

Mortifying oddity + time = riveting eccentricity.

On my thirty-second birthday, 3rd August 2018, I brushed my teeth and washed my face while playing ‘The Edge of Heaven’ from the speakers in my living room. Then I spent the day on my own, doing and eating all the things I loved the most. For breakfast, I had a poached egg on toast. I can confidently declare at thirty-two years old that there are three things I can do flawlessly: arrive anywhere I need to be on time with five minutes to spare; ask people specific questions in social situations when I can’t be bothered to engage in conversation and I know they’ll do all the talking (Would you say you’re an introvert or an extrovert? Would you say you are ruled by your head or by your heart? Have you ever set anything on fire?); and poach an egg to perfection.

I checked my phone and found a grinning selfie of my parents wishing me a happy birthday. My best friend, Katherine, WhatsApped me a video of Olive, her toddler daughter, saying ‘Happy birday, Aunty Neenaw’ (she still couldn’t get it quite right despite extensive tutoring from me). My friend Meera sent a gif of a luxurious-looking long-haired cat holding a Martini in its paw with the message ‘cannot wait for tonight, birthday gal!!!!!’, which meant she would certainly be in bed before eleven. This is what happens when people with children get too worked up for a night out – they tire themselves out with antici pation, set themselves up for a fall with their bravado, get stage fright then ultimately go home after two pints.

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