Imagine finding a notebook left in a cafe which contains the saddest thoughts of another within its pages.
This is exactly what happens to Monica, a former lawyer-cum-cafe owner in Fulham, London. One day, while clearing a table she stumbles upon a green notebook, just like the ones she used to use at school, left behind by its previous occupant. Failing miserably to chase after them, she decides to keep the book safe until they return.
It’s only after reading the opening pages however that she realises it was left deliberately for someone else to find because within the first pages questions are being asked of the reader.
“How well do you know the people who live near you? How well do they know you? Do you know the names of your neighbours? Would you realize if they were in trouble, or hadn’t left their house for days?”
“Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead? The one thing that defines you, that makes everything else about you fall into place?”
It is from these questions that Monica then discovers more about the previous owner of the notebook.
Julian Jessop is a lonely, retired artist. His wife Mary passed away some years ago and he is beginning to feel invisible and completely irrelevant. He doesn’t have a purpose anymore and feels that no one has any desire to even listen to him, hence this little green book. Within its opening pages, he has put down exactly how he feels and how he wished things in his life had been different.
Reading his story, Monica feels a twinge of sadness for her own life. She was once a successful lawyer, and while she loves her cafe she is missing the camaraderie of her colleagues, the water cooler chats and the late-night pizza conversations. Mostly though she mourns for her personal life or lack of it.
She wants so desperately to find Mr. Right, settle down and have a family but it seems that this isn’t meant to be and so instead, in order to take her mind off of it, she embarks on her own little project to bring Julian back into the fold of society.
At the same time, she decides to keep his little green book circulating in the hope that it may make others realise what is important to them, so after an evening of personal reflection and scribbling her deepest, most painful thoughts onto its pages, she leaves the notebook on a table in the wine bar across the road in the hope that another like-minded individual will pick it up and continue the cycle.
That person unfortunately is the obnoxious Timothy Hazard Ford, a trader in the city always looking for a good time that inevitably ends up high a kite and off his face every time he steps outside his front door.
Outwardly, he comes across as a completely arrogant pig that treats women like a commodity he trades in each and every day. What people don’t actually realise however is that he hates himself. There is nothing he likes about being ‘Hazard’ anymore and he is desperate to change.
With the book in hand, he heads to a tiny beach resort in Koh Panam, Thailand hoping to get clean, Whilst there he begins to reflect more about the two people he feels he now knows personally after reading their stories in the little green book.
After a few weeks and with a clear head, Hazard, just as Monica before him, starts to reflect on not just his own life but on hers as well. What if he could help her? What if he could find her perfect match?
Could one little notebook really change anyone’s life? Could it really make a difference?
How will the lives of these three very different people come together? Will they actually be able to help one another? Will anyone else become part of this ‘Authenticity Project’? Or will the meddling of both Monica and Hazard cause people more pain?
My Thoughts on The Authenticity Project
In a world where we all feel, at times at least, invisible and vulnerable this novel brings to the forefront the notion that no one is alone in the world, you just need to find the right, like-minded people. Of course, that is easier said than done, but it is a story that highlights that we should never give up hoping that one day, we will achieve all of our inner dreams, regardless of how far-fetched or elaborate they may appear. We simply shouldn’t give up.
The Authenticity Project centres on the loneliness that could come from living in a large city like London where you are simply a number and no-one really knows you; you just melt away into the crowds. However, I think this is true of modern times in general. We no longer seem to chat to our neighbours like people once would or spend time doing hobbies or activities outside of work that would lead to meeting new, likeminded individuals. It sadly highlights that, for the majority of people, today we live quite isolated lives.
Clare does a fantastic job of awakening our feelings for this incompatible group of strangers. Through the narrative it became increasingly difficult not to like each and every one of them, willing them to succeed and hoping that they emerge stronger than before the project began.
It is a novel that plays with your emotions, causing you to flit between championing the characters to wanting to slap them. In brings hope to the reader that potentially whatever is currently eating away at them can be stomped on if only they could find the right people to help them.
The Authenticity Project may start out as just another fictional read but before long it causes you to reflect on your own circumstances and what it is it you need to do to become authentic in your own life.
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