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On Love Hardcover – November, 1993

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr; 1st edition (November 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871135515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871135513
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two words on the cover ("a novel") are the only hint that this unusual first book is fiction and not autobiography. The unnamed narrator is a London architect who becomes involved with Chloe, a graphic designer. After about a year, Chloe leaves him for an office-mate, and, as a result, the narrator tries (unsuccessfully) to kill himself. Eventually he gets over Chloe and falls in love with someone else. The novel's action is minimal; the balance of the book is given over to the narrator's obsessive analysis of his relationship with Chloe. (There are diagrams--such as the seating chart of the Boeing 767 where they met--that are meant to illustrate various ideas with which the narrator toys.) The book was likely intended as a Barthesian look at that peculiar heart condition called love, but the overblown and pretentious writing obliterates any comparison, peppered as it is with such winking turns-of-phrase as "cartographic fascism." The author is clearly intelligent and well- read; perhaps some day he will put those assets to good literary use.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Chloe and Alain meet in a plane flying from Paris to London and fall in love. Their romance lasts only about a year, and after they have parted the narrator/author uses scenes from their time together as illustrations of his philosophical anatomy of romantic love. Chapters are formed of numbered paragraphs so that the book resembles a classical philosophical disquisition, and it's on this level that it reads best. First novelist de Botton writes well--dozens of sentences glisten with aphoristic insight--but neither Chloe nor Alain really engage our interest, and their story seems too slight to support all the heavy philosophizing. Recommended only for sentimental young romantics with a penchant for philosophy, readers who thought Nicholas Baker's Vox ( LJ 11/15/91) was profound, and writing teachers who need an example of what happens when you write a novel before you have much life experience.
- Charles Michaud, Turner Free Lib., Randolph, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

It REALLY annoys me that the way publishing works, the best books sometimes never get promoted.
Sarah Grove
The whole novel is the work of both an erudite and witty author who presents the reader with lots of wise and illuminating insights.
Read On Love if you are hoping to not just understand your own experience but the human condition more fully.
Lara Veylit

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Grove on October 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Alain de Botton really got famous around the time of How Proust can change your life and he's cemented his reptuation with his new book The Consolations of Philosophy. Both of them are great, but recently, I found this book, his first one, and I was completely, I mean, completely blown away. If you've read and in any way enjoyed de botton's past books, I think you'll love this one. It's got all the strengths of his writing; the analysis, the humour, the clarity, the elegance. But it's also got passion, it feels like you're reading the private thought of a man in love (in a good way). It taught me so much about myself, it reminded me of things I'd felt, but perhaps never been able to express. It made me feel a sense of community; like when you put down a book and think, 'Hey, I'm not all alone, there's someone out there who thinks like me.' It REALLY annoys me that the way publishing works, the best books sometimes never get promoted. Why were there ads all over the New York Times for de Botton's Consolations of Philosophy, but nothing for this one. This book was published in 1993 and sank without trace. It's published by Grove Atlantic, when actually, it's the kind of book that deserves to outsell Nick Hornby. I hear in Britain de Botton is really really well known; and I guess that's the way it should be. Anyways, On Love is a terrific read. To my mind, BETTER than his last two books; much better and fresher and more heartfelt. Go for it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If readers don't want to think about love (or wince from personal recognition), they have no one to blame but themselves. De Botton's title serves as sufficient warning as to what this book is about. Young or old, straight or gay, anyone who has ever submitted to the experience of falling in love is bound to identify with either the narrator (who sounds remarkably like the de Botton of HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE) or his beloved, Chloe.
As I read this book--which includes chapters entitled "The Subtext of Seduction," "Marxism," "The Fear of Happiness," "Romantic Terrorism," and "The Jesus Complex"--I kept puzzling over de Botton's subtitle, "a novel." Was this tack something he chose as a way of preventing friends and family from offering advice and consolation (which are usually self-serving and misplaced), or as a way of preventing ex-girlfriends from seeing themselves in the relatively pleasing portrait he paints of Chloe? Whatever his intention, he has stetched the definition of the novel in an interesting way. The basic love story between the narrator and Chloe travels its predictable path in an uneventful, but quirky, way. Neither comes off as a villain or victim, though both can be quite nauseatingly cute or petty at times. Through it all they remain convincingly human and we are drawn into their foibles, insecurities, squabbles, and desires. In short, they "live" as fictional characters. Even the narrator's hyper-reflective attitude is not bothersome. These analytical reflections read like diary entries; but the reader has evidence that the narrator has the good sense not to let Chloe know how much time he spends THINKING about his feelings for her. And it is these reflections, after all, that make the novel such a fun and thought-provoking experience for the reader.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I stumbled across De Botton's book years ago in book store, but didn't have the patience to read it (ugh, I didn't like philosophy in college, why read it again?). A friend recommended How Proust Can Change your Life to me a few years back, but I forgot about that too. Then, reading Joe Epstein's Snobbery (which is filled with Proust quotes), I ventured out and started my de Botton education with On Love. What a tour de force. I found myself laughing and cringing in acknowledgement of the universality of the situations. As one who deconstructs love much like our nameless hero (although without the classical references, I tend to use TV as source material), I found this book refreshing and honest. He realizes in the end, that falling in love is indeed folly, but the kind of folly that makes heroes. Read this wonderful book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sketchgrrl on September 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? I was paying for a bookstore purchase one day in NYC and the cover of this book, on a rack near the cash register, called out to me. I bought it and it sat around for a few months. One day I picked it up and read it. I was transfixed, by the playfulness and wit of the writing and by the deep work the intellectually curious main character goes through in his attempts to understand the woman he's fallen in love with. He's never entirely sure where the object of his love, Chloie, is coming from, and spends much time analyzing the situation from every imaginable angle, sharing it all with us, the readers. I loved this, the idea that a man wrote this book about a man who is as perplexed as a woman is when she's on the precipice of a love affair with a guy she can't fathom. This book was as comforting as chocolate, and as delicious, a heady banquet for the romantic soul. As I read the book, I was wishing I knew the author, because he's on the same wavelength as me. I can't wait to check out his other books!
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More About the Author

Alain is the author of seven non-fiction books that look at the great questions of ordinary life - love, friendship, work, travel, home - in a way that is intellectually rigorous, therapeutic, amusing and always highly readable. His goal is to bring ideas back to where they belong: at the center of our lives.

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