47 pages 1 hour read

Clare Pooley

The Authenticity Project

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


The Authenticity Project was written by New York Times-bestselling author Clare Pooley and published in 2020. Pooley, a British novelist and blogger, has published two novels and a memoir. The Authenticity Project is a work of romantic fiction in which six strangers are brought together through serendipitous discovery of a shared notebook. The novel explores themes of authenticity, life purpose, and identity formation. The story is told through a series of 75 short chapters in one character’s perspective in the close third person.

Plot Summary

Julian, an older and once famous artist, feels lonely as a widow. He writes his feelings in a green notebook that he titles “The Authenticity Project.” In his entries, he tells his story and encourages his reader to be more vulnerable with others. He leaves the notebook in a café to be found, read, and passed on. Monica, the owner of the café, finds the notebook. She is moved by Julian’s journal entries and writes about her own struggle to find a husband and have a child. She leaves the notebook in a restaurant, where Hazard, who is recovering from an addiction, finds it.

Hazard is also inspired by the notebook, but he decides to return it, unwilling to deal with his own emotions. However, when he realizes that the Monica in the notebook is the same woman he ran into and cursed out, he keeps the notebook. Hazard travels to Thailand to recenter himself, where he decides to find Monica a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Monica tracks down Julian and convinces him to teach a weekly art class at her café. The classes give Julian a sense of purpose, and Monica meets a handsome Australian man named Riley, who passes through one of the classes and immediately charms her.

Riley and Monica start to fall in love despite their reservations. Julian continues developing his new friendships, which are threatened when he accidentally tells Baz’s mother Betty that Baz has a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Hazard grows bored on the island and decides to visit Monica.

“The Authenticity Project” is passed on to Alice, a young wife and mother overwhelmed by her lackluster marriage and her baby’s needs. Alice is an Instagram influencer, but she never lets her thousands of followers see how lonely her life is.

Hazard arrives at Monica’s Café during their Christmas celebration. When Monica discovers that Riley knew about her from the green notebook, she kicks everyone out and cancels art classes. Julian descends into a depression while Riley and Hazard try to reestablish a friendship. Alice, eager to meet the people from the notebook, visits Monica’s Café but is put off by Monica’s anger. Riley and Hazard convince Monica to help them lend support to Julian. Monica restarts the art classes, and Alice and Hazard join. Alice, impressed by Julian’s style, starts an Instagram account for him that catapults him back to fame. Monica is hesitant to restart her relationship with Riley, but she becomes more open to a friendship with Alice after judging her for being an influencer.

As Julian becomes more famous on Instagram, he spends more time away from his new group of friends. Meanwhile, the others get closer. Hazard and Monica form a friendship that is almost ruined when Monica accompanies Hazard to a wedding and Hazard gets drunk and high. Hazard is ashamed of his relapse and makes amends. Monica throws a party for the supposed anniversary of Julian’s wife’s death, but Julian’s wife shows up, and the group discovers the extent of Julian’s lies. Rather than confront the fact that his wife left him for his philandering ways, Julian told people she died for sympathy and to avoid a more difficult conversation.

Monica breaks up with Riley around the same time that Hazard comes to terms with the fact that he’s in love with Monica. Alice leaves Max, and Riley prepares to return home to Australia.

In the final chapter of The Authenticity Project, Julian dies a happy and peaceful death in the park after his birthday party. The green notebook had been returned to him. A man named Dave finds Julian and the notebook, giving “The Authenticity Project” another chance at transforming someone’s life.