Bantam Press, 2020, £12.99
Are YOU Authentic?
‘Write what you know’ has always been the golden rule for authors, but that’s easier said than done. Because what you know is often what’s personal, feels unique to you, exists somewhere deep within (and for a reason). So it takes a monumental amount of courage to publish something that truly is what you know more about than anyone else. And that’s why I loved Clare Pooley’s The Authenticity Project so much.
The title is a giveaway – it’s about us being ourselves and the struggle it takes to get there, if indeed, we ever do. How lucky you are if you’re one of the few living a life that is honest with no tendrils of falsity connecting you to the outside world.
Clare’s book focuses upon a green notebook, inviting a diverse group of characters to pen their truths, then pass it on. What happens is remarkable: the crossing of lives in a community, support networks revealed, tenderness that’s so readily available to us all, if only we’d let it in.
Yes, this is fiction, and yes, the world’s not always buttercups and chai lattes – but then, when things do go wrong and we are left battered and bruised, the goodness in the world can help us to heal. If anything shows this, it’s how the large percentage of us have responded to others in our communities during the Coronavirus outbreak. I know that I’ve stood outside my house for the last three Thursdays at 8pm and fought back tears of pride at the realisation of what, and who, is on my doorstep. The realisation that we are connected – we really are all in this together.
With this in mind, The Authenticity Project is a timely read, indeed. Expertly woven, warm and genuine. The author’s acknowledgement of the loneliness and inner difficulties which so many of us contend with on a daily basis made this book feel like a safe space in which to be.
The part I like best? (This may come as a surprise) – the acknowledgements. Here, Clare Pooley reveals her own chapter of honesty. About addiction, about feigned perfection, about a struggle – and what led to her achieving the book I held in my hands. She writes with humility. She inspires with her honesty. She pays it forward by thanking everyone (and I mean everyone) at her publishing house, or who touched her life, in a sincere and genuine way. I’m totally in awe and charmed by her.
We all have our ugly bits we hide away for fear of rejection. We all have days where we put on a brave face to just get through it. But it comforts me to know that although we have our secrets, we are not alone – no (wo)man is an island.
Books are full of sadness, misery and woe, goodness – there’s even a whole section in my local bookshop dedicated to childhood trauma. If writers write what they know, that’s suggestive of the inner pain and turmoil experienced by many. But then, there are fairy tales, there are romance stories, coming of age tales, inspirational biographies, fantasy – and many more genres which gives us hope.
Life comes in many flavours, and we shouldn’t feel, just as Pooley’s characters learned, that we can only project the sunny ones in order to be a part of the world. It’s much better if we’re honest.