This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is a perfectly light-hearted audiobook called The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley which I read as part of my ‘Tis the Damn Readathon TBR. I can’t really remember the reason why I initially downloaded this, but with the return to more hectic teaching life on the horizon – this seemed the exact type of easy-going fiction I needed to latch onto and ground myself in. The narrator, Anna Cordell, did a spectacular job of voicing the different personalities and characters – it added that extra entertainment value which I don’t think I would have received from reading a physical version of the book for myself. Funny, heartwarming and unassumingly addictive I loved everything this audiobook had to offer!
Book: The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley (Audiobook narrated by: Anna Cordell)
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary)
Publication Date: 29th December 2020
Publisher: Penguin / Transworld
Pages: 384 (Audiobook: 10hr 25min)
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love
Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist and septuagenarian believes that most people aren’t really honest with each other. But what if they were? And so he writes–in a plain, green journal–the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. It’s run by the incredibly tidy and efficient Monica, who furtively adds her own entry and leaves the book in the wine bar across the street. Before long, the others who find the green notebook add the truths about their own deepest selves–and soon find each other in real life at Monica’s café.
The Authenticity Project‘s cast of characters–including Hazard, the charming addict who makes a vow to get sober; Alice, the fabulous mommy Instagrammer whose real life is a lot less perfect than it looks online; and their other new friends–is by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It’s a story about being brave and putting your real self forward–and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.
The Authenticity Project is just the tonic for our times that readers are clamoring for–and one they will take to their hearts and read with unabashed pleasure.
The Authenticity Project was a delightful book centred around a group of people who are all brought together due to ‘The Authenticity Project’. Julian, being in his senior years and struggling to cope with loneliness and a nostalgia for lost youth, writes his ‘authentic story’ in a green exercise book and leaves it in a café for someone to find and add to.
How well do you really know the people that you think you know?
The idea of the project is to confess your true self amongst its pages, rather than the half-truths or airs and graces you may put on in front of friends, family and colleagues – even those Insta followers…!
As the book winds its way through life, more and more characters get added to the narrative. I have to say this is one of the things I loved about the multi-POV story. New characters were introduced exactly when they needed to be – at the point in the story where they started to contribute something to the plot. Pooley’s way of doing this builds up the reader’s familiarity with them gradually rather than just needlessly dumping all of the characters in head-first at the start. It gave me time to get that reader/character relationship embedded and feel like I understood them – or at least as much as I could in a novel about how well we think we truly know the people around us.
I also found it quite rare that there wasn’t a single character I didn’t like!
Julian was so witty and charming. Monica went through a transformative arc which resonated with some of my own circumstances. Hazard was the roguish gentleman on a quest to turn his life around for the better. Riley added the laid-back Australian vibes encouraging others to take life as they find it. Alice added a viewpoint which would initially be seen as harsh and shockingly preposterous however also brings a refreshing realism to anyone struggling with her issues. I have to make a bonus mention for Anna Cordell’s accent for Mrs Wu – absolutely delightful and never failed to make me chuckle! All-in-all, they were a bunch of characters who could have all been plucked straight from the real-world and I grew quite fond of them throughout the whole course of the book.
For the most part, The Authenticity Project was completely predictable, albeit in a heart-warming and sentimental kind of way. Don’t get me wrong – there were a few added plot twists which took me by surprise (and one which made me gasp out loud as I was readying my classroom for the return of the children!). By the time the end came, I could have happily spent a few more chapters and hours just absorbing the general day-to-day lives that surround Monica’s café. Nevertheless, the ending itself gives the reader (and the characters) that closure they need whilst at the same time emphasising that the world doesn’t really just stop; real-life doesn’t really have a definitive ending – life goes on living from one day to the next.
With themes of friendship, love and loneliness – this novel about finding and owning your own authenticity then sharing it with the world was delightfully enjoyable. For a while, it practically transported me to the corner of a little café on the Fulham Road, where I could be a fly-on-the-wall of other people’s fictional lives. An easy-going, uplifting read with a group of loveable characters and fun-filled anecdotes. It definitely reminds you to focus on what is important in life and in this world where we can become so stressed and preoccupied with our jobs and the online/social media world, The Authenticity Project felt like an important reminder to spend some time switched off from all of that and get back to living again.
Why Should I Read This?
For a charming bunch of characters who wear their vulnerabilities on their sleeves.
For a unique concept and story which could quite easily be non-fiction rather than fiction.
For an endearing and loveably heartwarming story to lift and inspire you.