When Julian, an elderly, once-famous artist, leaves a journal in his local café, it changes the lives of a chain of people. The café’s owner, Monica, finds the mysterious book and reads about Julian’s struggle to make authentic connections. She adds her own pages about her wishes to find love and start a family, and then the journal finds its way to Hazard, a recovering addict and financial trader; Riley, an easygoing Australian traveler; and Alice, a young mother who feels unfulfilled. Monica’s café becomes a hub for this quirky bunch and others as it hosts art classes led by Julian and orchestrates celebrations and excursions, all of which give rise to unlikely friendships and even romance. Light moments are balanced by explorations of such weighty topics as substance abuse, grief, and depression. A compelling first novel about dealing with change by the British blogger who wrote The Sober Diaries (2017), an account of her own struggle with drinking after becoming a stay-at-home mother. -- Aleksandra Walker (Reviewed 1/1/2020) (Booklist, vol 116, number 9, p34).
This wistful, humorous tale from Pooley (The Sober Diaries) follows the path of a confessional notebook that passes through the hands of several characters. When 79-year-old Julian Jessop, a withdrawn British painter, leaves a notebook in Monica’s London Café, the owner takes it upstairs to her flat. A few nights later, Monica is oppressed by chronic loneliness as she comes home to her empty apartment; she reads the opening entry of Julian’s notebook, which laments the loss of his wife and envisions a model of honest public sharing, “not on the internet, but with those real people around you.” Monica then contributes her own intimate entry, a chronicle of dissatisfaction about being 37 without a husband or children, and leaves the notebook for another stranger. Timothy Ford finds it and brings it on a trip to Thailand that he hopes will help him get sober. After reading Monica’s entry, he decides to become her “secret matchmaker” by selecting an eligible bachelor among his fellow vacationers. He chooses Riley, a 30-year-old Australian planning to visit London, and leaves the notebook in Riley’s rucksack with a note to look for her. Pooley maintains a quick, satisfying pace as the characters’ simple, spontaneous acts affect each other’s lives. This is a beautiful and illuminating story of self-creation. (Feb.) --Staff (Reviewed 11/18/2019) (Publishers Weekly, vol 266, issue 46, p).
A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook. Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts "The Authenticity Project "—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook's pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing? An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics. (Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2019).