Book of the week: The Course Of Love by Alain de Botton

Cliffsnotes: Love as skill. Love as work. Love as disenchantment. Love in the time of averageness and adulthood. “We all know the headiness and excitement of love’s early days, but what can be expected over a shared lifetime?” In Alain de Botton’s surgical style, The Course Of Love answers this by partly retelling and partly reflecting upon the story of Rabih and Kirsten, an intercultural couple. Their love blossoms in picturesque Málaga but is then hurled – not into the drama of a familiar pulp romance – but into the mundane, trying business of everyday life shared together in Britain. In its exploration, it emphasises upon the maintenance of love and the way its tribulations shape us as opposed to the transient but life-changing passion with which it possesses us in the first place. A slim, but by no means a light read, The Course Of Love comes 23 years after de Botton’s first work and is as wise as the rest. A stripped version of de Botton’s book can be found in his recent New York Times article, Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person.

Get a taste: When Rabih realises that he hates lonesomeness almost as much as he loves Kirsten, an idle recount of his older, lonelier days of singlehood is slammed with this incisive insight. 
To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone. This isn’t necessarily our fault as individuals. Society as a whole appears determined to render the single state as nettlesome and depressing as possible: once the freewheeling days of school and university are over, company and warmth become dispiritingly hard to find; social life starts to revolve oppressively around couples; there’s no one left to call or hang out with. It’s hardly surprising, then, if when we find someone halfway decent, we might cling.

Author 101: Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Botton published his first book, a bestseller, at 23: a collection of Essays In Love. Since then, he has continued to write with grace and wisdom on many topics that refer to the aches and joys of the human condition. De Botton is the founder of The School Of Life, a global educational initiative headquartered in London, that is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. His documentary series, A Guide To Happiness views ideas such as self-confidence, anger, love and self-esteem through the lens of philosophers of the past. His old radio shows for the 2011 BBC series, A Point Of View are worth returning to.

Similar reads:  Essays In Love by Alain de Botton, One Day by David Nicholls, Modern Romance: An Investigation by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

The Course Of Love (Hamish Hamilton) is out now

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