I had a terrible reading month in April – only three books, and one was an audiobook. I am surrounded by books I really want to read and am yet paralyzed by pandemic stress, anxiety, exhaustion and the ever-present temptation of the iPhone. I did make it through a book this week, finishing at the end of April – The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley, a lighthearted novel about what happens when people stop being polite… and start getting real. (Bonus points if you get that reference.)

Why I picked it up: The Authenticity Project came out in February and started making the rounds on roundups and book-swapping sites. I was drawn in by the premise and the cheery cover.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist in England, decides one day to leave a journal in which he has confessed his deepest secrets – that he is desperately lonely and was a bad husband to his late wife – in the middle of a cafe. The book is picked up by Monica, the cafe’s owner, who reads Julian’s story and adds her own tale of woe. The book passes into more hands, with each new recipient privately laying bare their biggest fears and insecurities. Ultimately, these characters find their way to each other, forming a motley crew of people who find that they can help each other and meet some of each other’s needs.

Yet some dishonestly persists even after the characters share their notebook confessionals, and The Authenticity Project addresses the difficulty of coming clean to people you care about, especially when your relationship with them is built on a lie. Everyone’s hiding something here, and the question is how and when their lies will be exposed.

This is a cute premise, but The Authenticity Project was just okay for me. It’s too cute, and while I was curious to see how things ended up, it was all too light and breezy. I felt like it was written with the adapted-for-Netflix movie already in mind, down to the cute stray dog who comes into Julian’s life and the happy rom com ending. (Though there were some loose ends that never tied up, which surprised and kind of annoyed me.)

Lighter fare isn’t doing it for me during this pandemic, and The Authenticity Project sadly fell into that category.

The Authenticity Project was Book #18 of 2020.


  • May 2, 2020 - 9:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks as always for an insightful review, Gayle. I like the title and premise of this book, but based on your review won’t rush to read it. Sounds like it could be a good audiobook on long runs though. As far as pandemic reading, I’ve been immersed in memoirs recently (non-celebrity: so-called ordinary people facing unusual problems) and have found it somehow reassuring and diverting to read about people overcoming challenges other than this current one.

    • gayle
      May 2, 2020 - 9:34 pm | Permalink

      I agree about memoirs!!

  • May 2, 2020 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    Yeah lighter fare … sometimes doesn’t work even though we hope it will. Sometimes you need a Long Bright River kind of read to pull you through. I am just starting Lily King’s Writers & Lovers right now … and hope that will work to distract me these days.

    • gayle
      May 2, 2020 - 9:34 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if that will hold your attention like Long Bright River. I liked it but didn’t have a hard time putting it down.

      • Sheila Pont
        May 4, 2020 - 9:42 am | Permalink

        I agree with you about W&L. I liked it, but it was not a “page turner”. And yes… I LOVED the Real World 🙂

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