The Course of Love by Alain De Botton
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton takes you to places where most stories do not go. Most love stories end at ‘Happily Ever After’. Most story listeners do not ask, what happened after that and those who ask never really get the answer. Author Alain de Botton sets out to begin his story after a couple has married and started living together.
The Course of Love is an exploration of marriage. It is written as an internal dialogue – the thoughts that play in the mind of protagonists as they interact with each other. It talks about what the man is thinking, yes the main protagonist is the man. So when he looks at a woman, you hear not as much of the real conversation but more of the thoughts that he has. So, there is a love story of a couple based in Edinburgh. They have usual issues of managing careers, ethnic differences, and challenges of life. You relate to most things the couple goes through. Their story is as mundane as it can get but as real as it can get too. There is nothing exciting about this story.
At the same time, there is nothing unreal about this story. At times, it can get boring to read, for you are looking for something not so much real. But then that is not what this author has set out to give you.
In between scenes, author’s voice comes in italicized text. It puts philosophers take on the story at that point in time. It takes an use case and abstracts it for you to apply it to your situation. More often than not you will be able to relate it to some situation in your life, in your marriage or relationships. These insights somewhere put a spotlight on the below the surface interactions between two people. At times, there is an attempt to relate to childhood issues. I am happy that author just touches upon them. And does not relate everything to just childhood traumas.
Reading this book is like a visit to a shrink with someone else playing your role. It will make you look at the ups and downs of your relationship. It would make you appreciate the power of staying in a relationship than walking away from it. And it makes you accept the small aberrations in your life and marriage. It would make you comfortable with being vulnerable, in letting down your guard, in being less than perfect.
To read it is not entertaining, or has ‘rasa’ missing. At times The Course of Love becomes a bit too academic when the italicized text runs in more than half the page. The story anyway is as predictable as it gets. It is only the subtext that is beyond the mundane. However, it is brilliant at analyzing the most intimate relationships in your life. It tells you it is easy to give up and move on than staying in a relationship for life. It tells you that you move from being lovers to housemates as husband and wife to parents to a part of an extended family. I loved the last chapter where the protagonist is finally getting ready to be married. He understands the value of being committed despite the distractions in life.
If you have questions, doubts, apprehensions about your marriage or relationship, this book might give you the perspectives that you need.
This is a fiction but never feels like one. It feels like a case study that a researcher uses to make his point or hypothesis. You might feel you are reading a textbook before an exam.
The cover design of The Course of Love is beautiful. Loved the small elements put together to create a comprehensive picture in soothing blue and white.
Not an easy or light read. Read it when you have time to sit back and contemplate. A great read before you decide to get married – might help you prepare better for the journey, though may dampen your initial romance too. It is also good to read when you are going through a low in your relationship.
Take your Call.