Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

You’ll either love the format of Matthew Dicks’s novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love, or it will drive you crazy. Personally, after labouring over two essays for uni last week while reading, a story written entirely in list format was light relief.

The story focuses on Dan – list-maker, bookstore owner, soon-to-be father. Dan needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to save his failing business. Plus, there are things that are nagging him – his estranged relationship with his father, and the spectre of Peter, who was the first husband of Dan’s wife, Jill.

There will always be a part of Jill’s life that will remain a secret to me because you can only tell your second husband so much about your previous life with your dead husband.

Some elements of the book follow the Bridget Jones format – tracking finances, diet and so forth, which allows the reader to deduce Dan’s stress levels before delving into the detail.

Also like Bridget, Dan’s self-deprecating humour reveals his anxieties and fears. There are some gentle reflections on fatherhood, as well as an exploration of Dan’s feelings of abandonment and failure.

The action takes place in the background, and the thread of what has happened, or is about to happen, is revealed in the lists. Throughout, the lists provide a good balance between introspection and humour. For example, Dan lists the five problems with lying, including ‘Lies always cover up the worst parts of you’, and follows it with another list:

How liars with the best intentions are like the owners of every iteration of Jurassic Park

    • They never set out to hurt anyone.
    • They operate with enormous hubris.
    • Denial both perpetuates and intensifies the problem.
    • The situation inevitably gets worse and worse as time goes by.
    • The end is never pretty.

The humour carries the book, and it borders on slap-stick when it gets to Dan’s hare-brained scheme to secure some funds for his bookshop (a heist). I’ll forgive the silliness of the heist because some of the lists really made me laugh:

Dan’s 6 rules of Drinking Stories: … No one will ever care about your drinking stories as much as you do; If you have more than three excellent drinking stories from your entire life, you do not understand what constitutes an excellent drinking story.

Things that don’s make sense: People obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack even though they’ve never seen the musical.

Reasons for fighting with Jill tonight:I proposed that no one be allowed to hold the baby until they admit that climate change is real.

Why parallel parking is bullshit: It’s a public performance; If you succeed, no one gives a damn.

Subjects that should be broached during the first three months of dating: Previous marriages; Bizarre love of Barry Manilow and Air Supply.

It’s probably a good time to mention that I am an excellent parallel-parker, and also that Barry Manilow and Air Supply are in my all-time favourites.

3.5/5 Good fun.

I received my copy of Twenty-one Truths About Love from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Dan discovers Jill’s first husband, Peter, loved fudge ripple ice cream, and decides never to order fudge ripple again (despite knowing how childish and pointless this is).

As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (June 29): Belfast 11°-19° and Melbourne 4°-17°

7 responses

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s Winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  2. This sounds like a fun read. For the record, I cannot parallel park. If I can’t drive into the space in a forward direction I won’t do it, even if that means I give up and just drive home 🤣

    • I became a champion parker when my mum was having chemo at St Vincent’s in East Melbourne- I would drive her there and have to park with four lanes of Victoria Parade traffic bearing down on me! We still say that the best part of her cancer was me learning to park 😬

  3. I think I’m being grumpy today because although I enjoyed all the quotes in your review I don’t think I could read a whole book like this. Maybe I just need to catch it in the right mood!

  4. I love a good list, I suppose they do say a lot about a person. Anyone reading mine would know I keep putting off assembling papers for my tax return. Sounds a novel way to write a story! And I can parallel park, spelling is a whole other thing.

  5. Making extensive to-do lists is basically how I accomplish anything so this really appeals to me. But I will admit I’m not a particularly good parallel parker!

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