Cover Image: The Authenticity Project

The Authenticity Project

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Member Reviews

I'm not sure what drew me to read this book, maybe it was the lovely cover of the cafe. Reading the description now I'm not sure I would rush to read it, but I am so glad I did! I just loved it and couldn't wait to get back to it each time, and spent the time in between thinking about the characters.

I will admit it had a little bit of a slow start, but once the Authenticity Project notebook began its journey to the next person it really took off. Julian is the first to write in the notebook and leave it in Monica's cafe - for him it truly is the beginning of something he could never have dreamt of. One of the saddest parts of the book is when Monica is in Julian's cottage and she opens a canister of peppermint tea. There is a note from his long ago dead wife, reminding him to offer his guests biscuits, and he says, "oh that's a new one" I haven't come across a new note for a while.

Monica writes in the book next and then when the following person writes in the notebook it takes a trip overseas. As each person writes in the book their lives become entwined eventually until at a point about three quarters into the book I exclaimed out loud "OH !!!". I don't do spoilers so to find out what had me shouting out loud you need to read this extraordinary and wonderfully written book. Just when I thought I could second guess what was going to happen it all changed and then there were more changes which had me gripped as much as any thriller.

I could reveal so many tidbits about the characters, but really I think it's best for you to discover them for yourself, bit by bit, or page by page of the notebook.
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Oh my goodness this book ❤️ I hate using the term “all the feels” but it sums The authenticity project up perfectly. For me this book is the perfect uplit, it has really interesting characters, a storyline that I became so invested in and it just really warmed my heart and thankfully pieced it back together after the heartbreaking parts! The chapters just flowed so seamlessly even though they were told from several different perspectives. It’s very much a “one more chapter” book and I liked that the chapters were short and sweet. I highly recommend this book, it was a perfect read for me and is 100% on of my favourite reads this year, maybe ever 🤷🏻‍♀️ Loved it and I’m obsessed with the cover 😍
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I loved the concept of this book and how the characters came together. The set up was unique and the cast a motley crew indeed. There were many heart felt tender moments but something felt missing to this story. Was a good read but not a favourite due to lack of character development and some plot holes.
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Thanks to #negalley for my free copy, in exchange for an honest review.

“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 neighbours? Would you realize if they were in trouble, or hadn’t left their house for days?”

Recently the distinction between truths and lies has been circling on my mind. What does it mean to be straightforward, truthful, honest, ‘authentic’ (though that’s a word I dislike): in short, to avoid lying? And how possible is it to behave this way consistently? Lying of course can never be avoided completely, nor should it. White lies, otherwise called ‘social lies’, form an important part in our lives. ‘The authenticity project’ goes one step further though, and wonders how others would react to us if they really knew us.

Clare Pooley used to work in advertising. She then became a blogger called ‘Mummy was a secret drinker’, which led to a memoir: ‘The sober diaries’. This is her first novel, and as she explains, it was inspired by the process she herself had to go through to tell ‘the truth about her life’.

For a debut light, chick-lit-type novel, this is surprisingly accomplished and comfortable to read. It belongs in the category of cozy reads, similar to ‘The flatshare’. The central idea involves a notebook- entitled ‘The authenticity project- moving from hand to hand within a London community. As each person reads the previous one’s true story about their lives, they ‘pay it forward’ by making a change that will benefit them.

What I liked was the strong sense of a community coming together in this novel. A seemingly disparate group of people, all lonely and slightly lost in their lives, come together in surprising ways. I have always had a soft spot for books that create a heart-warming sense of community, as having a sense of community and belonging is a very central part in my own life: so I enjoyed this novel, which I experienced as a light, page-turnery, ‘palate cleanser’ book.
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A lovely read full of interesting and intriguing characters. Even managed to weave in some twists and turns. I did see one storyline coming but all in all a great read. Monica's Cafe sounded like somewhere I would like to visit. Would like to see a follow up.
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What a clever hook!

An old man leaves a green notebook in a cafe to be picked up by whoever happens upon it. Inside he tells his truth, revealing his loneliness to an unknown stranger and leaving what happens next up to them. Gradually the book is passed from person to person, and the individuals who dare to write their own truths in the notebook find themselves inextricably linked together in a chain of disparate – and in some cases, desperate – strangers. What follows will change all of their lives, but whether for the better or the worse is yet to be seen.

The characters here are all fabulous: each one engaging and interesting, with their own quirks and flaws. There is Julian, the lonely and fabulous aging artist; Monica, the reserved perfectionist who secretly longs for a family of her own; Hazard, the addict trying to get his life back onto a healthier track; Riley, the laid-back Aussie wanderer; Alice, the Instagram yummy mummy with her baby Bunty accessory; Lizzie, the nosy nanny; then the many delightful side characters, like Benji, Baz and Mrs Wu – each one an individual and a delight.

We are taken from chapter to chapter through the different character’s lives as they take their turn with the Project and also look back and meddle with what went before them, so we get to see different perspectives on each character and build up a full and intimate picture of their regrets and desires.

The whole story is infused with the warmth of community, neighbourliness, looking up from your own concerns and looking out for others, and – as the title suggests – the importance of honesty and openness in making changes for the better. Here is friendship, acceptance, understanding, and even some romance, leaving the reader feeling like they’ve been hugged by a close friend.

Recommended to anyone who loves a good people-centred story about the kind of families we make for ourselves when we really take the time to look at the strangers around us.



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

– Clare Pooley, The Authenticity Project


Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
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A witty, exciting and fast paced read. I enjoyed this book so much I was sad when it was over. 

The gradual introduction of new characters was so sharply written into the story it was effortless. You believed each character was real and fully developed. 

The concept of the book was genious, but how this was played out throughout the book was exciting and a real page turner. 

It was thought provoking and a real life changer in the way I will think going forward. 

I especially enjoyed the twist in the plot and how each character had their own journey to discover themselves in a crazy modern society. The use of Instagram was cleverly intertwined and will help to appeal to a wide audience of readers. 

I will be recommending this book to everyone!
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The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley 

An Indie coffee shop, a notebook and a cast of interesting and diverse characters all in one lovely little novel. What more could you ask for at this strange and surreal time? Springtime 2020
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The Authenticity Project is yet another book I’ve read of late which had a great premise but fell down when it came to the actual delivery.

The ‘project’ is actually just a notebook into which 79 year-old Julian, a flamboyant artist who was part of the ‘it’ crowd in his day, writes admissions of being a lonely old man since his wife, whom he underappreciated completely, died. After writing his ‘authentic’ story in the book, he leaves it lying around for someone to pick up and read. The idea is for them to then write their own story before leaving it for the next person, and so on. We follow the story of all those who find his book and the relationships they have with each other because of the book.

Pooley was obviously going for a Love, Actually/Four Weddings and a Funeral type interconnecting characters feel. However, the whole thing didn’t work as well as it should. I didn’t find the book particularly funny, nor did I believe in the romance. At the very least, for this type of multi-character book to work, you need to fall in love with the characters and their plights. In this, their plights/plots were bland and boring and I’m afraid I had trouble liking some of the characters, let alone loving them.

Julian is probably the one Pooley was counting on us finding the most charming. However, I found him to be a selfish git most of the time. His timeline also felt completely wrong. As in, a man his age would have been well into his 40s during the 80s and, therefore, his love for the clothes and music from that decade felt a little confusing and wrong.

Other characters include Monica, a germophobe neurotic mess; Hazard, an alcoholic with a stupid name; Alice, a yummy-mummy insta-star; and two gay couples who play such a minor part it’s obvious they’ve been thrown in so Pooley could check off her ‘must have for diversity’ list.

And don’t get me started on the Australian character who Pooley uses as a dumb blond ignoramus which, for obvious reasons, made me mad. (Note to everyone who reads this, the only people to call toilets a dunny would be over 60 and everyone in Aus knows who Nigella and Jamie Oliver are. *hmph*)

The book also suffers from the same problem as a lot of others on the market at the moment -- it’s about 100 pages too long. The plot and characters were far too weak and the writing too pedestrian to expect it to stretch out to almost 400 pages. I did read to the end of the book but maybe that was out of sheer stubbornness on my part.

I guess, considering the addiction storylines (all the characters are addicted to something, alcohol, social media, cleaning etc), Pooley had the best intentions when she wrote this book. Unfortunately, I’ve come to discover that good intentions (and, in this case, a good idea/premise) doesn’t necessarily mean a good read. I’d rate this maybe 2 ½, 3 at a pinch.
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A good read that makes you think about authenticity, your place in life and appearances - but not at the expense of a good story.

My full review here from 04 May https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/?p=13733&preview=true
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An uplifting tale, showing the importance of being honest to yourself and honest to the others around you about yourself. The Authenticity Project begins because senior Julian, mourning the loss of his beloved wife Mary, is tired of being invisible and alone. So he writes about his truth and then leaves this to be found so that others can share their truths, and hopes that it’ll trickle out, sort of like a pay it forward. There’s a fair few number of characters in this and it’s hard to see how they are all connected at first.  I hate to say my interest waned a little in the middle, but boy am I glad that I stuck with it. There were parts were you see the real truths of that characters and when you learn how they’re all connected. There’s humour in this too; Julian’s sense of style and Mrs Wu’s feistiness. And there’s heartbreaking moments too. I really liked how all these characters are so different than their outside persona. They’re all vulnerable. A cracking debut!
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Five stars for this really enjoyable, light-hearted read. I loved the variety of characters, and was surprised by the twists at the end as I was sure two of the characters would end up together! A lovely and apt ending too.
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The Authenticity Project is a heartwarming. story of a. lonely elderly artist who leaves a notebook with his memories in a cafe. We are introduced to different characters who pick up the book and in turn write their memoirs. Inspired by the author's own life experiences this is a cheerful read.
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I loved this book far more than I thought I would. A real credit to the author!
It is based on a simple idea of a little green notebook that gets passed around from person to person. Person 1 writes in his story & leaves the book for person number 2. Number 2 writes their story & leaves the book for number 3 and so on. The idea is simple and lovely! As you progress through he book the lives of the 7 characters become entwined and you learn more about them. The lonely man to the lady wanting nothing more than her knight in shining armour to the Instagram loving star to the drink & drugs addict. Believable and a great read!
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A lovely feelgood story about a group of lonely people who find friendship when Julian,an elderly artist ,leaves a notebook in a local cafe describing his life and his need of friendship,which he calls The Authenticity Project.Each person who finds the notebook writes something about their own life and leaves it for someone else to find.Gradually these people meet and their lives change as a result.
It's a lovely story but not all sunny,as some of the characters face demons in the course of their journey to happiness.I enjoyed it very much and really cared about what happened to the characters.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in return for an honest review which reflects my own opinions.
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The Authenticity Project is a charming, and thought-provoking novel from author Clare Pooley, best known for her 2017 memoir, The Sober Diaries.

“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?... .maybe telling that story would change your life, or the life of someone you’ve not yet met.’

Feeling sorry for himself, seventy-nine year old Julian Jessop, a widowed, once famous artist, articulates his regrets and loneliness in an exercise book he titles ‘The Authenticity Project’, and leaves it in a local cafe, inviting whoever finds it to share their truth, and leave it for someone else to find. When Monica, the owner of the cafe, reads Julian’s confession, she is inspired not only to add her own, and then leave the book in a local wine bar to be found, but also to concoct a plan to relieve Julian’s loneliness. 

Exploring themes of friendship, truth, and forgiveness, connections are forged between the strangers who find the book as Monica invites Julian to host art classes in the cafe, and then Hazard, having read Monica’s heartfelt missive, decides to play matchmaker, placing Riley in her path. Next to find the book is Alice, and then finally Lizzy. 

It’s a heartwarming journey as these strangers, who are very different from one another, become friends, and change each other’s lives in ways both small and large. Conflict is inevitable, as honesty is not always easy, and it can be scary to let go of the curated image of ourselves, but the drama is a catalyst for each of them to find a way to live more authentically.

Told with humour and heart, The Authenticity Project is an uplifting story that reminds us of what we have to gain when we are truthful with ourselves.
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This was a sweet read and I especially enjoyed the blossoming friendships between all ages. 

As a lover of romance, of course my favourite storyline was Hazard and Monica and it was great to see them discover new parts of themselves together. 

The only aspect that I struggled a little bit with was the large amount of characters. Whilst they were still all interlaced, there wasn’t as much character development as I’m used to. I also think as a slightly younger reader that I couldn’t quite relate wholly to any of the characters as I’m not currently in that position. Definitely a reflection on my status as a reader, and not the book. 

Overall I enjoyed dipping in to the colourful world of these characters and escaping the real world for a while.
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Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers of this book. I absolutely loved it.  It was just what I needed at this time, a light-hearted read about a notebook that is found in a cafe and the story that ensues.  The writing project was meant to be based on honesty however the writings in there lead to curiosity and stories developing from the various writers who share their thoughts and lives in the notebook.

Although I was relieved to be able to read such a delightful book, it is not surprising when I see that the write up compares it to Love Actually and Eleanor Olliphant is completely fine, though I found the latter sad.

I would highly recommend to anyone who fancies something light, dare I refer to it as 'chick-lit' and I would certain read Claire Pooley's other books.  In fact I loved the write up after end of the book which shows the inspiration behind the story and in turn makes me want to read Claire Pooley's other book, The Sober Diaries.
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This was an absolutely wonderful book, with a unique and original storyline which manages to be very thought provoking.

Firstly I loved the idea behind the book so much that I quite fancy trying it out for myself. We are all so keen to have this picture perfect life that we end up stressing ourselves out when things don’t go perfectly. I’ve often wondered how much better life would be if we were just honest about things as it would save a lot of trouble. I therefore found it very interesting to explore this idea through the characters and see how things could be changed.

The story is written from the point of view of six characters, which may sound confusing but they are each so different to each other that it’s easy to keep track of them all. I grew very fond of them throughout the book and so enjoyed going on the journey with them. Each of the characters are dealing with a difficult problem which they were struggling with and trying to work through. I thought this done in a very clever way as the author manages to bring up the subjects in a relatable way which made the characters seem more realistic.

Overall I really enjoyed this book which manages to be both heartwarming and funny but serious at times as there are some quite poignant moments too. The characters felt like old friends by the end and I found myself feeling quite sad when the book finished and I had to leave them behind. I’d love a sequel to this book as it would be great to visit all the characters again.

Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Transworld for my copy of this book via Netgalley.
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I throughly enjoyed reading The Authenticity Project, I found it an enjoyable read and just loved how the characters and their stories wove into each other.
Being authentic in this digital world is an excellent idea, but to execute and live that, is so very different!
Seeing how it worked out for the characters was heartwarming to read, and Monica being single at the age of 38, made me feel a little better about myself!
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