“An engrossing tale [that] provides plenty of food for thought” (People, Best New Books pick), this playful, wise, and profoundly moving second novel from the internationally bestselling author of How Proust Can Change Your Life tracks the beautifully complicated arc of a romantic partnership.
We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. We see, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter. Interwoven with their story and its challenges is an overlay of philosophy—an annotation and a guide to what we are reading. As The New York Times says, “The Course of Love is a return to the form that made Mr. de Botton’s name in the mid-1990s….love is the subject best suited to his obsessive aphorizing, and in this novel he again shows off his ability to pin our hopes, methods, and insecurities to the page.”
This is a Romantic novel in the true sense, one interested in exploring how love can survive and thrive in the long term. The result is a sensory experience—fictional, philosophical, psychological—that urges us to identify deeply with these characters and to reflect on his and her own experiences in love. Fresh, visceral, and utterly compelling, The Course of Love is a provocative and life-affirming novel for everyone who believes in love. “There’s no writer alive like de Botton, and his latest ambitious undertaking is as enlightening and humanizing as his previous works” (Chicago Tribune).
Bestselling philosopher de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life), whose nonfiction tackles life's big questions, traces the intricate and winding path of a long-term relationship in his second novel. Rabih Khan, from Beirut, and Kirsten McClelland, from Scotland, meet and fall in love. De Botton outlines the contours of a love that endures yet inevitably evolves over the years, through Rabih's sudden proposal, the birth of their two children, and the act and consequences of adultery. The story of Rabih and Kirsten is interspersed on almost every page with de Botton's italicized manifesto of universal truths about love and romance, such as "Love is a search for completion." As readers watch Rabih and Kirsten work, fight, make love, and take risks, de Botton does something interesting: he will rewind a scene, usually an argument, and play it again to illustrate how loving, mature people should react, rather than how they typically do. At points, de Botton seems distant from his characters, as if they were created to illustrate his beliefs about love. But when Rabih and Kirsten are debating the details of petty humiliations and letdowns, they feel completely alive and real. The novel is a valuable commentary on the state of modern marriage and it reassures us that troubles are a normal, even necessary, part of the journey.
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AudioBook Review: Stars: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Stars: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Not quite familiar with the build of this story, the author uses dual points of view to discuss the events and emotions of the relationship and marriage between Rabih and Kirsten after the first flush of new love, through struggles and changes. If that weren’t enough, moments of struggle, conflict and even bliss are highlighted as if the couple is a case study for those wanting to learn or improve their own communications and performance.
I’ve never read or listened to anything quite like this: moments from Rabih and Kirsten are often raw and brutally honest, giving the impression that listeners and readers are a fly on the wall. Small slights are seen from both sides, communication and its little breakdowns are explored and shown to erode and weaken the bonds, and de Botton provides moments for readers and listeners to see both sides, step into a situation with knowledge of how it will affect your partner, and by extension, your relationship.
Narration by Julian Rhind-Tutt mixes deftly the academic and rather dry inserts with the more emotional perspectives of the two in the relationship. Philosophical insets neatly present tidbits of information to readers, while the moments of action between the couple will feel familiar to many, and give new insight on those moments. What emerges is a small treatise on the A-B-C’s of love, one or more of the insights provided will be sure to keep you thinking long after the end of the title.
Interesting and carrying the feeling of a novel while being laden with information and fuel for thought, the story is engaging and entertaining, with moments that linger long after its end.
I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.