A brilliant new novel about love and marriage in the modern world - from the author the bestselling novel Essays in LoveModern love is never easy. Society is obsessed with stories of romance, but what comes after happily ever after?This is a love story with a difference. From dating to marriage, from having kids to having affairs, it follows the progress of a single ordinary relationship: tender, messy, hilarious, painful, and entirely un-Romantic. It is a love story for the modern world, chronicling the daily intimacies, the blazing rows, the endless tiny gestures that make up a life shared between two people. Moving and deeply insightful, The Course of Love offers us a window into essential truths about the nature of love.
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton was published in paperback by Penguin on 26 January 2017
I'm delighted to welcome guest reviewer Angi Holden to Random Things today, she's sharing her thoughts on The Course of Love.
Follow her on Twitter at @josephsyard
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton - a review by Angi Holden
Boy meets girl, girl meets boy. They fall in love. There is awkwardness and trepidation, before they make that tentative step across the possibilities of rejection. They get married. And that is usually where the contemporary love story ends. In Alain de Botton’s latest novel – only his second and published some 20 years after his debut – this is really where it all starts.
Early in The Course of Love de Botton describes marriage as “a hopeful, generous and infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully omitted to investigate.” It’s not the stuff of most contemporary romantic novels. It’s certainly not the message we’d want to share with someone about to tie the knot. And – apologies to Jane Austen – it’s hardly a ‘truth universally acknowledged’. But it is a truth. None of us know, as we ‘plight our troth’ quite who we, or our partner, might be in ten, twenty, forty years time. Or what our circumstances might be.
Throughout the novel, the reader is accompanied by an unseen narrator who makes observations, asks questions, reflects on the nature of relationships. It could be an irritating fictional device, but de Botton is so insightful and witty that it feels like you’re sharing a book with a good friend. I am one of the minority of readers who struggled with Markus Zusak’s enormously popular The Book Thief. I found Zusak’s narrator repeatedly pushed me out of the narrative with constant reminders that this was a novel and not ‘for real’. De Botton’s narrator does the opposite: he draws you in and invites you to look so closely that you feel you’re in the same room as Rabih and Kirsten.
As their marriage gradually evolves, from romantic early beginnings through children and infidelity to a relationship that is ‘beyond romanticism’, de Botton describes the pressures they face. There is the disappointment of early career aspirations not being fulfilled. Rabih once imagined a future where he was praised for his elegant, progressive architecture; middle aged, he has “a single building – more of a shed, really, - to his name”. Kirsten juggles running the household while holding down a job (no longer a ‘career’) with the care of their children and visits to her dying mother. Life has become stressful; they have become weary and boring.
The Course of Love, however, is never dull. There are laugh-out-loud moments. There are not-just-me-then moments. There are no-don’t-do-it moments. There are been-there, done-that moments. (Any parent will recognise several, I guarantee!) De Botton has created two characters who are utterly human, with flaws and strengths and an assortment of childhood baggage; characters you want to shout at and cry with and hug. It’s a wise book, but funny and tender too. It’s easy to read, but it’s not an easy read. I loved it.Thank you Anne for sharing this book with me
Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life.’ He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries.
Find out more at www.alaindebotton.com
Follow him on Twitter @alaindebotton