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The Course of Love: A Novel Hardcover – June 14, 2016

4.4 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 14, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501134256
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501134258
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Alain de Botton's May 29, 2016 op-ed piece in the New York Times, entitled "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person," inspired a blizzard of reader comments --- 531 in all by the time the response period closed. Not surprisingly, his view that "Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for" struck many readers as cynical in the extreme.

Those same readers might want to reconsider that reaction after reading his sagacious, sophisticated new novel, THE COURSE OF LOVE, which wraps insights like that one around a sensitive portrait of a marriage to make any thoughtful reader question, with de Botton, the psychological and social damage inflicted by our modern notion of romantic love.

He patiently marshals the evidence to support his case through the characters of Rabih Khan and Kirsten McLelland. Rabih is an architect with an Edinburgh urban design firm that specializes in public works projects, while Kirsten is a local civil servant with a degree in law and accountancy. They meet on a construction site, and within two hours Rabih magically "feels certain that he has discovered someone endowed with the most extraordinary combination of inner and outer qualities," the person "with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life." The couple's brief, intense courtship is proof positive of de Botton's arch definition of marriage:

"Marriage: a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don't know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully omitted to investigate.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton's long awaited second novel follows the relationship between Rabih and Kirsten. De Botton's thesis is essentially this: While most love stories tell us everything we need to know about how love begins, there isn't enough focus in our society on how it continues.

Combining Rabih and Kirsten's fictional story with his own insights and commentary on their relationship, De Botton proposes that "enlightened romantic pessimism" is a healthier and more realistic alternative to Romanticism, the latter of which gives us unrealistic expectations of relationships and sets us up for inevitable failure.

There's no "right person," suggests De Botton, and in each and every longterm relationship we are doomed to encounter a variety of suffering and unfulfillment; therefore, committing to another person is akin to saying, "I've surveyed the different options for unhappiness, and it is to you I am choosing to bind myself." Whether readers find this depressing or comforting will likely vary. (For me, it was the latter.)

Much like De Botton's first novel, many of the insights he provides in The Course of Love are accurate to the point of discomfort. It's not easy to identify with his propositions, yet there is universal truth to them, and there's something distinctly comforting in that. It's always special to read a book -- particularly a work of fiction -- and feel as if the writer is communicating truths about yourself that you've never been able to adequately acknowledge, let alone convey.

As a fan of both philosophy and fiction, I find great satisfaction in De Botton's ability to translate profound ideas and insights into accessible and entertaining prose. The Course of Love is a captivating read, but seems as if it would be especially meaningful for individuals in the beginning phases of longterm commitment.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent, insightful, confronting (ough!) but also very comforting book. It puts a lot of things that are going on in my life into perspective. I think the lessons in this book will make me a better man and spouse.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely adored this book. It was a refreshing, fast-paced and thought-provoking read, that delved into the nature of love - not just the first infatuation and romance, but long lasting relationships and marriage. It was just fascinating for me, and interesting to see how the actions of the two protagonists were broken down by the author.

The structure of this novel is non-traditional, in that the author often inserts philosophical or thoughtful commentary on each stage of the romance, and the actual story lacks a real novel structure because it's more of an overview of how Rabih and Kirsten met, fell in love, and their progression with marriage and children. I'm not yet at the stage where I have a lot of experience with this, so it was wonderful to get an impartial look at the emotions that run through these experiences and what it means for the person and for the significant other. Even though the story is mostly from Rabih's point of view, the novel looks at the relationship in such an equitable way, that I felt like I could easily relate to both Rabih and Kristen, and all of their trials and successes. It's a little bittersweet to read the progression of their relationship, with all the ups and downs, in such a truncated way, but revelatory to get such a unique overview of these two peoples' lives.

This is a book that I think will stick with me for a long time, because the experiences discussed in this book are so meaningful and timeless. The thoughts and emotions are applicable to almost everyone, and the search or maintenance of a long lasting romantic relationship is certainly a major part of most people's lives. This is a beautiful and fascinating book.
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