STARRED REVIEW
June 14, 2016

What comes after ‘I do’

By Alain de Botton
In his first novel, On Love, philosopher Alain de Botton catalogued the process of falling in and out of love, putting his own unique and perceptive spin on the modern day love story. Now, over two decades later, de Botton finds himself deeply fascinated by another facet of love, one that literature and films too often neglect: Having fallen in love and committed ourselves to another person, what is it like to have been married awhile? He explores the question of how love changes and evolves when sustained over time with astounding insight in his latest novel, The Course of Love.
Share this Article:

In his first novel, On Love, philosopher Alain de Botton catalogued the process of falling in and out of love, putting his own unique and perceptive spin on the modern day love story. Now, over two decades later, de Botton finds himself deeply fascinated by another facet of love, one that literature and films too often neglect: Having fallen in love and committed ourselves to another person, what is it like to have been married awhile? He explores the question of how love changes and evolves when sustained over time with astounding insight in his latest novel, The Course of Love.

Superficially, The Course of Love is the story of Rabih and Kirsten, who follow a relatively well-trod path: They meet, they fall in love, they get married, they have kids and one of them even has an affair. Normally it would be poor form to reveal the milestones in their relationship upfront, but de Botton is seemingly less concerned with what happens between Rabih and Kristen than he is with why it happens and, more importantly, what this reveals about the nature of romantic love and attachment. Throughout the book, he approaches the pair with an air of impartial detachment and the plot is frequently punctuated by philosophical and psychological reflections, resulting in something that resembles a fascinating case study of a marriage more than a traditional novel. Delving deep into his characters’ psyches and explicitly dissecting their inner yearnings and motivations for his readers’ instruction and enlightenment, de Botton has effectively crafted an intellectual love story that somewhat paradoxically manages to clinical in its tone yet extremely intimate in its scope.

The Course of Love is not a fairy-tale love story; it is unlikely to make readers palms sweat or hearts flutter, but this book clearly means to challenge the conventions of what makes us swoon and which elements of love, in all its complexities, we celebrate. As de Botton painstakingly documents, the reality of “happily ever after” is rarely easy or pretty, but as Shakespeare famously wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth.” If The Course of Love is any indication, not only does de Botton agree, but perhaps we—as well as love—are all the better for it.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

The Course of Love

The Course of Love

By Alain de Botton
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781501134258

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!