Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando

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Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando

Category: Home and Family
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: These true stories from the world of online dating are a real mixed bag – worth a flick through if you're looking for advice on the subject, perhaps, but not an entertaining read for the sake of it.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 256 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Guardian Books
ISBN: 978-0852652022

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Internet dating is no longer the new taboo it once was. These days, whatever type of person you are, and whatever type of person you're looking to meet, you can take your pick from any number of sites. Yes, even Guardian readers can log on and look for love specifically with, erm, other Guardian readers. To do so, they just have to click through to Guardian Soulmates, which is probably no different from Match.com or Datingdirect, though might count a larger proportion of sandal wearing hippies among its members.

Happily, this book – which is both an introduction to and a history of online dating – doesn't focus exclusively on this website. Nor does it focus exclusively on the theoretical how to's. Instead, the main bulk of the book is made up of profiles and anecdotes of dozens of online daters from various sites, clearly carefully collected to include a good cross-section of ages, males and females, gay, straight and bi.

These people tell us, in their own words, why they looked online in the first place, how it went, the highs and lows of the face-to-face dates that ensued and what they learnt from it all. In between, perhaps to make the author feel like they'd earned their name on the cover, we have a few bits of narrative and some helpful tips - how to 'sell' yourself in a profile, what not to do on a date and so on – though more often than not these summarise points made previously or subsequently in the book by the dating guinea pigs themselves. If that sounds like it could get a bit repetitive and, well, odd, then good. That's what I want it to sound like, because that's what it is, and especially in the world of online dating, forewarned is forearmed.

This is not an all together terrible book, in fact I'd go so far as to say it's half-way decent at times, but I found it an odd read and one I never really got stuck into. Part of the trouble as I saw it was the over reliance on the chunks written by the people using the websites. As you would imagine, this is a pretty diverse group of people, not only in their backgrounds and experiences, but also in their ability to tell a story.

Some of them rambled on for so long I really wasn't surprised when the punch line was that they were still single – if they'd behaved like that on a date, I'd probably have excused myself to go to the loo, and left via the kitchen. There were some who just weren't interesting in the slightest, and in a way it was a shame because they rather overshadowed the few who had something genuinely interesting to say. The complete mish-mash of writing styles and voices made the book quite tricky to read, and I almost wished the author had taken their experiences and turned the whole thing into a narrative of the perks and perils of internet dating as a whole, not a bunch of first person reflections and recollections.

I also felt some of the 'filler' had too much of a clinical, almost dissertation like feel to it. Take for example the following extract:

as many critics have pointed out, despite the power of online dating to introduce people to new partners outside their existing sphere, it often merely entrenches people's habitual partner-choice, confirms their prejudices or excludes exactly the kind of people they would love

To me, that sounds far too sterile for the sort of book I was expecting this to be.

I didn't know what to make of it in the end. There were some interesting anecdotes, but these were small pockets in an otherwise quite dull look at online dating, an area which has bags of potential. I felt there could / should have been more vetting of the stories involved. The overall feel was of a community- or self-published piece of work and I imagine most copies will be bought by those who feature prominently on the pages, which isn't the best recommendation of a book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

They Call Me Naughty Lola might not be quite so serious a read, but I think I'd enjoy it a little more. Maybe you would too.

Buy Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Soul Mates: True Stories From The World of Online Dating by Sonali Fernando at Amazon.com.


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