The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley
Publication Date: April 2, 2020
“Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?” This is the question that Julian Jessop, an eccentric, seventy-nine-year-old artist, poses within a pale green exercise book that he labels The Authenticity Project, before leaving it behind the Monica’s Cafe. When Monica discovers Julian’s abandoned notebook, not only does she add her own story to the book, she is determined to find a way to help Julian feel less lonely.
And so it goes with the others who find the green notebook that will soon contain their deepest selves. It will also knit the group together in real life at Monica’s Cafe, where they’ll discover the thrill and sometime-risk of being completely honest – and, for some, find unexpected love.
(Synopsis from Goodreads)
Rarely have I thought that a book is perfect, but this is exactly how I feel about The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. It is a lovely story about how the lives of a quirky cast of characters are changed for the good after a lonely elderly man in their community leaves a notebook behind. Each new person who opens the notebook is presented with the following questions: “How well do you know the people who live near you? How well do you know you? Do you even know the names of your neighbours? Would you realise if they were in trouble, or hadn’t left their house for days? Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead?” Each new person who reads the notebook is able to read the truths of those who came before them, and share their truth. It is a fascinating concept, especially considering that the initial participants in the project do not necessarily know who comes after them.
The Authenticity Project has a diverse range of characters, each of whom is gradually introduced so that we really get the chance to know them. The characters are well-rounded, distinctive, and unique in their own ways. The way that the characters gradually came together reminded me of Love Actually in a way. There were some unexpected twists as well, which added some intrigue to the plot. I especially loved reading about quirky Julian – a lovely elderly man with a unique sense of style. Some of his stories and antics has me in fits of laughter.
While this is a light-hearted read, it does also deal with some heavy topics surrounding addiction. You may be familiar with Clare Pooley for her blog Mummy was a Secret Drinker, or her book The Sober Diaries. The author has a history of addiction, which I think makes the plot surrounding this aspect that much more stronger. This could be triggering for some readers, because it is a fairly large part of what makes up one of the characters.
The Authenticity Project is a lovely, uplifting book. I loved seeing how each of the character’s lives changed for the better as they became more honest with themselves and those around them. This story contains an important lesson, especially in today’s world where social media is all around us: we need to be more authentic. I am tempted to answer the questions posed by Julian’s notebook, and see what I find out about myself in the process.
I’d like to thank NetGalley, Random House UK, and Clare Pooley for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.