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The Authenticity Project
Cover of The Authenticity Project
The Authenticity Project
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
A New York Times bestseller
A WASHINGTON POST “FEEL-GOOD BOOK guaranteed to lift your spirits”

“A warm, charming tale about the rewards of revealing oneself, warts and all.”
—People
The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love
Clare Pooley's next book, Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting, is forthcoming

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.
A New York Times bestseller
A WASHINGTON POST “FEEL-GOOD BOOK guaranteed to lift your spirits”

“A warm, charming tale about the rewards of revealing oneself, warts and all.”
—People
The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love
Clare Pooley's next book, Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting, is forthcoming

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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    One

    Monica

    She had tried to return the book. As soon as she realized it had been left behind, she'd picked it up and rushed after its extraordinary owner. But he'd gone. He moved surprisingly swiftly for someone so old. Maybe he really didn't want to be found.

    It was a plain, pale-green exercise book, like the one Monica had carried around with her at school, filled with details of homework assignments. Her friends had covered their books with graffiti of hearts, flowers, and the names of their latest crushes, but Monica was not a doodler. She had too much respect for good stationery.

    On the front cover were three words, beautifully etched in copperplate script: The Authenticity Project. In smaller writing, in the bottom corner, was the date: October 2018. Perhaps, thought Monica, there would be an address, or at least a name, on the inside so she could return it. Although it was physically unassuming, it had an air of significance about it.

    She turned over the front cover. There were only a few paragraphs on the first page.

    How well do you know the people who live near you? How well do they know you? Do you even know the names of your neighbors? 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? Not on the internet, but with those real people around you?

    Perhaps nothing. Or maybe telling that story would change your life, or the life of someone you've not yet met.

    That's what I want to find out.

    There was more on the next page, and Monica was dying to read on, but it was one of the busiest times of the day in the cafe, and she knew it was crucial not to fall behind schedule. That way madness lay. She tucked the book into the space alongside the till with the spare menus and flyers from various suppliers. She'd read it later, when she could concentrate properly.

    Monica stretched out on the sofa in her apartment above the cafe, a large glass of sauvignon blanc in one hand and the abandoned exercise book in the other. The questions she'd read that morning had been niggling away at her, demanding answers. She'd spent all day talking to people, serving them coffees and cakes, chatting about the weather and the latest celebrity gossip. But when had she last told anyone anything about herself that really mattered? And what did she actually know about them, with the exception of whether they liked milk in their coffee or sugar with their tea? She opened the book to the second page.

    My name is Julian Jessop. I am seventy-nine years old, and I am an artist. For the past fifty-seven years I've lived in Chelsea Studios, on the Fulham Road.

    Those are the basic facts, but here is the truth: I AM LONELY.

    I often go for days without talking to anyone. Sometimes, when I do have to speak (because someone's called me up about payment protection insurance, for example), I find that my voice comes out in a croak because it's curled up and died in my throat from neglect.

    Age has made me invisible. I find this especially hard, because I was always looked at. Everyone knew who I was. I didn't have to introduce myself, I would just stand in a doorway while my name worked its way around the room in a chain of whispers, pursued by a number of surreptitious glances.

    I used to love lingering at mirrors, and would walk slowly past shop windows, checking the cut of my jacket or the wave in my hair. Now, if my reflection sneaks up on me, I barely recognize myself. It's ironic that Mary, who would have happily...

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    When Monica finds a green notebook labeled "The Authenticity Project," left behind in a café by elderly, eccentric artist Julian Jessop, she's struck by its plea, "Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?" So she adds her own story to the book, with others discovering it and adding more stories that eventually pull them all together in a warm and luscious embrace. Pitched big at Day of Dialog.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 18, 2019
    This wistful, humorous tale from Pooley (The Sober Diaries) follows the path of a confessional notebook that passes through the hands of several characters. When 79-year-old Julian Jessop, a withdrawn British painter, leaves a notebook in Monica’s London Café, the owner takes it upstairs to her flat. A few nights later, Monica is oppressed by chronic loneliness as she comes home to her empty apartment; she reads the opening entry of Julian’s notebook, which laments the loss of his wife and envisions a model of honest public sharing, “not on the internet, but with those real people around you.” Monica then contributes her own intimate entry, a chronicle of dissatisfaction about being 37 without a husband or children, and leaves the notebook for another stranger. Timothy Ford finds it and brings it on a trip to Thailand that he hopes will help him get sober. After reading Monica’s entry, he decides to become her “secret matchmaker” by selecting an eligible bachelor among his fellow vacationers. He chooses Riley, a 30-year-old Australian planning to visit London, and leaves the notebook in Riley’s rucksack with a note to look for her. Pooley maintains a quick, satisfying pace as the characters’ simple, spontaneous acts affect each other’s lives. This is a beautiful and illuminating story of self-creation.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2019
    A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook. Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts "The Authenticity Project"--as he titles a slim green notebook--and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook's pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people--an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.--who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world--no chain stores or brands allowed here--making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing? An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    January 1, 2020
    When Julian, an elderly, once-famous artist, leaves a journal in his local caf�, it changes the lives of a chain of people. The caf�'s owner, Monica, finds the mysterious book and reads about Julian's struggle to make authentic connections. She adds her own pages about her wishes to find love and start a family, and then the journal finds its way to Hazard, a recovering addict and financial trader; Riley, an easygoing Australian traveler; and Alice, a young mother who feels unfulfilled. Monica's caf� becomes a hub for this quirky bunch and others as it hosts art classes led by Julian and orchestrates celebrations and excursions, all of which give rise to unlikely friendships and even romance. Light moments are balanced by explorations of such weighty topics as substance abuse, grief, and depression. A compelling first novel about dealing with change by the British blogger who wrote The Sober Diaries (2017), an account of her own struggle with drinking after becoming a stay-at-home mother.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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A Novel
Clare Pooley
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