GOOD MATERIAL by Dolly Alderton

Good Material by Dolly Alderton flips the usual sad breakup story by telling it from the guy’s perspective. Andy, a mid-thirties stand-up comedian, has just been broken up with by Jen, his girlfriend of three years, and he’s devastated. With his career stalling, his friends all married off and the love of his life gone, Andy is at loose ends. Good Material tracks the months after the breakup, as Andy tries to put his life back together.

Why I picked it up: I bought Good Material in London over Christmas break. I liked Alderton’s last novel, Ghosts, and I think Good Material hadn’t come out yet in the U.S., so I felt like I was beating the system!

Alderton is especially skilled at depicting relatable characters and situations, and her meticulous chronicle of the stages of grief after a breakup was very accurate – the Instagram stalking, the hounding of mutual friends for information, the awkward run-ins. Andy’s general immaturity is frustrating, but he is also a good person who was genuinely hurt by the loss of the woman he thought he was supposed to be with. Most of the book is completely one-sided, with Jen a shadow-y, mythical creature we come to know only as the object of Andy’s pining. At the end of the book, however, Alderton pulls a Fates and Furies-esque 180 and finally gives us Jen’s perspective on their relationship and breakup. This rounds out the book, giving it much more depth.

Overall, I enjoyed Good Material, but I wish that I had had more of Jen, that the 90/10 split between Andy and Jen had been more balanced. Seeing relationships from two sides is much more interesting, and the 90% of Andy got me a little bogged down for a while. But Alderton’s smart and empathic writing got me through. In the end, I didn’t like Good Material as much as Ghosts, but I am glad I picked it up.

Good Material was the 8th book of 2024.