I had seen quite a few reviewers talking about this book and it seemed like a light and positive read, so I requested it when I was emailed about it in January, as a light read to pick up on in slightly strained times back then, and it seemed like a good one to select as I decided to make inroads into my NetGalley list this last week. It was so absorbing that I sat up late to finish it – and I’m really trying to sleep long and well at the moment so something has to be special to make me do that!

Clare Pooley – “The Authenticity Project”

(18 January 2020 – ebook)

A lovely book which will appeal to people who liked “The 24-Hour Cafe” or “The Lido” or “On the Up” (although concentrating more on the community aspect than the campaigning one, even though it seems like it might go that way at some point).

Monica runs a cafe and is far happier than when she was a corporate lawyer – but she’s worried about finances and a bit lonely. Then she finds a notebook titled “The Authenticity Project” and in it the story of a lonely elderly widower who lives somewhat locally. Can she track him down and change his life even a little, and is she brave enough to write down the truth about her life, as the book asks its new owners to do? Who will find the book next?

I loved how we only saw what each person had written in the book through the eyes of the next person to read it, even if we observed them writing in it. The healing and redemption that are engendered are lovely, however there is a fine line between trying to help people and interfering. I also loved the diverse characters and the modern setting, with lost bankers, career changers, yummy mummy Instagrammers and using Google Maps to navigate the city. There are different kinds of people and different kinds of relationship, and not everyone is directly connected to the book. I particularly liked the redoubtable Mrs Wu and her journey.

The ending was perfect, not too saccharine or didactic and pitched just right, with an enticing nod to future possibilities. A good read that makes you think about authenticity, your place in life and appearances – but not at the expense of a good story.

“The Authenticity Project” was published on 2 April 2020.

Thank you to Random House / Transworld for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.