Each month, our resident book club reviews a new must-read volume that will help to educate, inform, entertain, and thrill you.

This issue, Hannah Whittaker reviews Clare Pooley’s fiction book, The Authenticity Project.

This week Hannah Whittaker is looking at the 2021 novel The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley, her first fictional novel to be released. The book has continued to be published in 32 different languages, was a winner of the RNA Debut Novel Award, a New York Times bestseller, and a Radio 2 Bookclub pick. Pooley herself entices her readers to this novel by describing it as “six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren‘t always what they make them out to be. What would happen if they told the truth instead?”.

Publishers weekly described Pooley’s novel as a “wistful, humorous tale… a beautiful and illuminating story of self-creation”, and Good Morning America drew upon the fact that this book covers a “well-suited subject for the Instagram era”. The reviews and commentary on this book certainly made me excited to get into it, and I am very happy to say that it did not disappoint. This book follows the story of a solitary green notebook that brings six complete strangers together, resulting in unlikely friendships, revelations, highs, and lows.

Julian Jessop, a lonely, stylish, and complicated widow has the idea to create this notebook, which is designed for the people who find it to write in it and reveal their deepest thoughts on their lives. Monica, a young woman who runs a café on Fulham Road, is the first individual who comes across the notebook, and actively decides to add to it and ultimately pass it on for the next stranger to find.

I believe that Monica’s character is explored in the most depth throughout this book by Pooley, and although she’s definitely not completely likeable at times, I ended up having an affinity towards her personality, and believe that she is the driver behind the ultimate friendships between these strangers who come across the green notebook.

When I finished this book I read Pooley’s afterword which explained how her own struggles with alcohol addiction formed the basis and inspiration for one of the characters within the book. Pooley has said that a few of the characters were inspired by her own sufferings in life, but also how she overcame them. The way she portrayed her own addiction through the character of Hazard was inspiring and extremely brave of her, and further adds to the realism and rawness of this novel.

The intricate and lovable characters are definitely one of the reasons that this book was such an enjoyable read. Right through to the end of the book we are introduced to new characters who have come across this green notebook, and who equally have a significant impact on all of the characters’ lives and how the story ultimately plays out. The diversity within this unlikely crowd was expertly conveyed by Pooley, including the old and young, the straight and gay, parents and those without kids, and much much more. Regardless of who came across the notebook, no one was ever ostracised from this unconventional group of people, no matter the connection everyone was always welcome into their group and the time that they all spent together.

Due to the way Pooley writes her characters being perhaps my favourite element of this book, I certainly had my favourites. Although my life is close to the complete opposite of the character Monica’s life, I found myself enjoying her sections of the book the most, as I believe that she had the most significant character development from the start of the book to its end. Her journey from a woman who was struggling to keep her café afloat and held so much pain in the fact that she had not yet had children, to a thriving individual who has found tremendous happiness through other people and their own journeys was so heart-warming to me.

Even though Monica probably had the most attention throughout this book, every other character, no matter when they were introduced, had their own, descriptive story told with the same attention to detail. Pooley has the ability to give each of her characters a significant amount of development within just a few pages, allowing the reader to create their own opinion of and relationship with each of these characters that come across the dreaded green notebook.

Personally, I find it hard to pick up on anything to critique within this novel. It was such a breath of fresh air, and with my previous reads being on the rather serious side, Pooley’s novel really couldn’t have been recommended to me at a better time! The novel is a fairly easy read, which is definitely not a negative thing, but it is still incredibly engaging and full of twists and turns that are entirely unexpected. In all honesty, I would have still enjoyed the book if there weren’t any surprises and it was entirely straight-forward, but evidently these twists and turns give the book an edge and make it even more enticing.

The overall message that this light-hearted book conveys is that kindness will always prevail, you only have one life and that life must be lived outside your comfort zone! These characters achieve that element of realism and raw truth that we all hope to get to in our lives.

Page turner: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Complexity: ⭐️⭐️

Storyline: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You can read more of Hannah’s work by following @hw.reads on Instagram.

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