Tuesday, April 18, 2017
REVIEW: THE COURSE OF LOVE BY ALAIN DE BOTTON
"We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue."
Hands down my favorite book of this year, and maybe last year. What an utterly wonderful story- with a wholly unique insight and structure (half novel, half textbook). The prose is poetic and tender, and still manages to provide tough love and some therapy- for whatever stage in your relationship. It's greatest gift is providing insight into behavior, thus promoting understanding of your spouse- and even more importantly, yourself. I found this through a suggestion on The Book Depository website when looking for another novel. This is unusual, as most of my recommends come from bookish YouTubers or podcasts. I will have to utilize this feature more, because this is a gem!
The most common question most couples receive is "How did you meet?" or "How did you get engaged?" This is also the general focus of many contemporary romantic novels. Even if the novel chronicles their life, it is more event-based. In this, we have a constant focus on the mechanics of longterm relationships. This story charts the beginnings of infatuation for Rabih and Kirsten, but mainly chronicles the long haul of life....ever after, children, philandering, a section titled "beyond romanticism", and mature love.
A section of particular significance to me was "The Romantic vision of marriage stresses the importance of finding the 'right' person, which is taken to mean someone in sympathy with our interests and values. There is no such person over the long term. We are too varied and peculiar. ....The partner best suited to us is not the one who miraculously happens to share every taste, but the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace." This really helped me, as I often wish I could be more interested in the bands or entertainment that my husband enjoys, even though he could care less. I know it shouldn't matter, and even though he has told me (repeatedly)....somehow reading these words was a revelation- no exaggeration.
Another italicized note from the author: "It may come fast, this certainty that another human being is a soulmate. We needn't have spoken with them; we may not even know their name. Objective knowledge doesn't come into it. What matters instead is intuition: a spontaneous feeling that seems all the more accurate and worthy of respect because it bypasses the normal processes of reason." They are things that you know to be true- but most of us would have a hard time articulating. I found myself saying "That's it!" to many of these.
The author has an uncanny ability to use dialogue, and also explain underlying intention in an evocative way. "When, on their last day together Mrs. McLelland remarks.....what a pity it is that Kirsten never sang another note after her father left home.....she is- as much as the rules allow- asking Rabih not to ruin Kirsten's life."
I'm really befuddled why I haven't heard of Alain de Botton before. The average ratings are high on Goodreads. I agree wholeheartedly with The Daily Mail and Evening Standard's blurbs on the back cover....that it should be compulsory reading for anyone entering or already in a marriage, and that it may even save some marriages. In any case, I am extremely happy to discover him and can't wait to read more. If you've read others by him, drop me a line and let me know what to pick up next. In any case, I would recommend this to all human beings. You'll be a better, more empathetic person because of it.