Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Course of Love: A Novel, by Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton has shown tremendous insight into culture and the human condition in his previous work. In his new novel The Course of Love, he follows a couple through their courtship, marriage, and parenthood, offering insight and reflection along the way. 

Falling in love, as most people can attest, is easier than staying in love. De Botton writes, "Our understanding of love has been hijacked and beguiled by its first distracting early moments. . . . We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue."  The real life story happens after all those initial feelings fade. 

De Botton's guidance isn't necessarily traditional. As he describes a more libertine view of sexual faithfulness, he suggests that while a tendency toward sexual exploration is still a minority position, he nonjudgmentally offers it as an option. Nevertheless, the husband in the story harbors guilt, if not regret, for a one-night stand while on a business trip. 

In spite of de Botton's moral ambiguity, The Course of Love is full of passages that anyone who has fallen in love and married will relate to and maybe even be moved and inspired by. 

Love is a progressive experience. The fact is that both partners in a relationship will continue to grow and change. Thus, "Compatibility is an achievement of love. It shouldn't be its precondition."  As a marriage--and a family--grows, the couple will come to recognize that "Perfect happiness comes in tiny incremental units only, perhaps no more than five minutes at a time. This is what one has to take with both hands and cherish."

Love is precious and valuable. As far as novels go, The Course of Love isn't much to read. It's more of a collection of essays centered on stages in a fictional couple's life.  With the wisdom and insight he imparts, De Botton will certainly inspire lovers old and young to reflect on and treasure the love that they share. 

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