Made in India
Book Name : The Course of Love
Author Name : Alain de Botton
Book Reviewed by : Anuj Vadher
‘The Course of Love’ written by ‘Alain de Botton’, comes about 23 years after his first novel ‘Essays in Love’, as a sequel. Written along the similar lines as ‘Essays in Love’, the philosophical genius of de Botton that masterfully dissected the idea of romanticism in relationships, in case of ‘Essays in Love’ a short-lived one; takes on to the larger challenges of relationships in ‘The Course of Love’, the challenges that come with the longevity of a relationship.
Like any other love story, Rabih and Kirsten meet, fall in love, get married, and are asked to tell the tale of how they met, which they are always happy to tell. But this is where the story begins for us, “they will suffer, they will frequently worry about money, they will have a girl first, then a boy, one of them will have an affair, there will be passages of boredom, they’ll sometimes want to murder one another and on a few occasions to kill themselves. This will be the real love story.”
De Botton begins, “A marriage doesn’t begin with a proposal or even an initial meeting. It begins far earlier, when the idea of love is born, and more specifically the dream of a soul mate.” Linking their childhood to the present with his adroitly formed passages, de Botton combines philosophical ideas with psychological explanations; and explores the idea of love the two characters have formed over time and how it plays out in their behaviour towards each other.
Touching upon various aspects of marriage, of sulking, sex, teaching and learning, sweetness, parenthood, laundry, and adultery; de Botton penetrates the idea of a ‘perfect lover’ to bring it down to the ordinary. Like Marcel Proust, in his book ‘In Search of Lost Time’ says, “Live with a woman altogether and you will soon cease to see any of the things that made you love her; though I must add that these two sundered elements can be reunited by jealousy”, referring to the threat of infidelity; Rabih and Kirsten validate the threat that is otherwise frowned upon in the romanticised idea of love. And about the readiness of marriage, de Botton says, “Given that the marriage yields its important lessons only to those who have signed up for its curriculum, it’s normal that readiness should tend to follow rather than precede the ceremony itself – perhaps by a decade or two.” Perhaps what Rabih and Kirsten needed was for someone to give them these insights, that the book gives to us.
As the story unfolds, it starts to become clear that the story is rather common, and similar to most of the married couples’ tales. But it is not the story that keeps us turning the pages, rather it’s the characters, and the insights of de Botton given in italics which breaks the story, but it is these comments that along with the narrative gives it its identity, and arouses our interest.