Rabih feels certain that he has discovered someone endowed with the most extraordinary combination of inner and out qualities – intelligence and kindness, humor and beauty, sincerity and courage; someone whom he would miss if she left the room even though she had been entirely unknown to him but two hours before; someone whose fingers he longs to caress and squeeze between his own; someone with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life.
What does it mean to live happily ever after? Over twenty years after his bestselling debut Essays in Love, Alain de Botton returns to writing a novel filled with philosophies of marriage in The Course of Love. The story is of Rabih and Kirsten falling in love and journeying through marriage over a lifetime. And Botton interweaves theoretical ideals of romance with witty and sage commentaries perhaps only best friends or parents are entitled to say.
The story is divided into five parts: Romanticism, Ever After, Children, Adultery, and Beyond Romanticism. And each part introduces a new set of obstacles which Rabih and Kirsten learn and work together to overcome. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship but there can exist an everlasting desire to be perfect for each other, and this story tells that every relationship is in constant evolution because there isn’t a single “right way” to perfect it.
The kind of love that is established during courtship is definitely not sustained after years of relationship, and The Course of Love thoughtfully proves this through Rabih and Kirsten, from the very first moment they lay their eyes on each other. It also emphasizes that confidence is one of the key factors in falling in love. And how every monumental event provides an opportunity to reflect on what love is and how it should be communicated through our actions. Having children, for instance, parents learn how much power they have over people who depend on them and what responsibilities they have to tread carefully around those who have been placed at their mercy. Botton also touches on the theories of monogamy and why sometimes eyes wander outside of happily committed relationships.
Though fictional, The Course of Love is full of advice and realistic views on lust and love and how to survive the joys and fears of real commitment over a lifetime. It’s a fun read to learn a lesson or two about love and marriage.
dee’s recommendation: 5/5