Dolly Alderton’s memoir Everything I Know About Love, written when she was in her late 20s, became a runaway bestseller. Her fellow twentysomethings clutched its tales of brilliant friends, great nights out, depleted bank accounts, bad first dates, worse one-night stands, hopes raised and dashed to their hungover bosoms and took it as their bible rather as a previous generation did with Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. That Alderton’s book also deals with a loss of the kind you would expect to experience only in later years seemed to imbue it with some hard-won genuine wisdom, 너무.
Alderton has now adapted her account of those black-edged golden years into a BBC One drama series of the same name. It fictionalises the memoir, using it more as a springboard than directly as material, but it is still quintessential Alderton speaking to quintessential millennial.
그것은 2012. Maggie (the author’s avatar, played by Emma Appleton) ~이다 24 and has just arrived in London. She is one of four friends sharing an unfeasibly spacious and unsqualid house, which feels like an odd choice for a series so keen to perpetuate the relatability that made the book such a hit. They are all eager to embrace everything the throbbing metropolis has to offer, none more so than Maggie. She parties hard and often. As her much more nervy and earnest best friend Birdy (Bel Powley) 말한다, in a line representative of Alderton’s acuity in these matters, Maggie is genuinely fun: “Someone who actually likes skinny dipping and wearing bandanas and playing snooker in pubs!”
In Alderton and Appleton’s hands, Maggie is 단지 charming and unaffected enough to make you give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible to consider her self-centredness and determination to make the worst possible choices whenever a penis heaves into view (especially when attached to Street, played with perfect slippery toxicity by Connor Finch) a function of youth rather than enduring characteristics. As Street (세상에, Maggie! Run fast and run far) puts it – “You’ve got about two years left of getting away with it.”
Rounding out the London houseshare – sometimes with karaoke but, as I say, they are young and must be forgiven – are Maggie’s university friends Nell (Marli Siu) and Amara (Aliyah Odoffin). 그러나, it is Birdy and Maggie, whose blossoming friendship we see in flashbacks to their school days, who are each other’s ride-or-dies. The emotional heart of the series lies in Maggie learning to navigate life more independently when the perpetually-single Birdy finally gets a boyfriend and is not constantly available to her any more. Like a mole emerging, blinking painfully into sunlight, Maggie flinches from this first experience of adulthood. Nobody tell her, fellow ancient crones. There is no advantage to be had in knowing how much worse this grownup gig gets. Let them gather their rosebods and chop their lines of coke on club toilets while they may.
For anyone much older than Maggie/Alderton, this riotous seven-part white-knuckle trip through the 20s of the Tinder generation will have you feeling like an anthropologist on Mars. (Doubly so, if like me you were too old and boring for your 20s even when you were 20.) But questions will surely be asked in the houses of even the viewers who recognise the febrile excitement of those years and embraced it as much as Maggie. Has the flood of personal writing unleashed by the internet not inoculated them against age-old problems, such as the lure of the bad boy? Did people really affirm each other and their friendships as loudly and as often as this lot do? When Maggie tells Birdy “You are the sweetest, funniest person in any room. You on bad form is a level of charm most people don’t get to in their entire life” are we meant to take this as an indicator of the depth of love they have for each other, or as performative guff that signifies the opposite? Is the fact that we have seen none of these supposed characteristics in Birdy hitherto a sign in favour of the latter, or a simple failure of writing so far?
Everything I Know About Love has been billed as a Sex and the City for our times, but the characterisation isn’t strong enough and it doesn’t have that touchstone’s wit, subtlety or wisdom – or at least distance from the turbulent time depicted that would pass for the latter. But it’s fun to spend time with Maggie and her gang. Exhausting, but fun. More so than skinny-dipping, wearing a bandana or playing snooker at least. But then I would say that, at any age.