Book Review

Review: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Another review that I was approved for back in 2016 but was slow to pick up, despite hearing how good this would be … and, of course it was. The Course of Love is a very rational approach to the idea of love, and to the ‘conventional’ relationship in the modern age.

Title: The Course of LoveCourse of Love
Author: Alain de Botton
Pages: 240
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (Penguin Books)
Publication Date: 28th April 2016

Rating: 4.5 stars


This story is, in essence quite a simple one – Rabih and Kirsten fall in love, get married, have children and have their happily ever after, right? But love is never that simple – is waxes and wanes from the first flushes of infatuation and lust to the more steady beat of an ongoing relationship. Sometimes that beat fails completely, and the couple has a choice – to stand by and restart, or to destroy and walk away. And can our conditions for Romantic love even survive today, where your childhood and own experiences of being parented and loved shape what you can offer as an adult?

This story is a very conventional approach – a man and a woman and their relationship. But they symbolise a lot more than that. They symbolise two elements of a relationship, anxious and avoidant, secure and mature in turns. They show how a lack of communication, or a lack of understanding about what is actually being communicated, can damage and destroy a person, or make them into something that you hate.

The story is also very simple – it’s a reflective approach, largely from Rabih’s point of view, that outlines his experiences and thoughts and emotions. But alongside that is the narrator – more of a psychological voice – putting Rabih’s thoughts and experiences into context. Occasionally it feels like this voice is interrupting the story that you just want to get on with and read, but it works well as it gives such a clear explanation of WHY people act in a particular way.

That voice as well is an incredibly rational and logical approach, which perfectly offsets the passion and impulsivity of the main characters. The approach is very Freudian too, as the couple gradually reach some level of maturity in their relationship.

And there are lots of great asides and moments shown through Rabih and Kirsten’s relationship, ones that any couple, or anyone with an experience of a relationship can completely relate to. I certainly feel like I have some apt quotations to read out at my own hypothetical wedding.

It’s quite a short novel – it wouldn’t normally take me so long to read. But I had to keep stopping to highlight paragraphs and write down ideas. I guess that is that mark of having read something worthwhile.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



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