In Edinburgh, Rabih and Kirsten fall in love. After the sacred meeting, the two lovebirds go through the typical stages: infatuation, euphoria, sex, and the marriage proposal. Never has either met someone so understanding and accepting of his or her innermost self. If this were Hollywood, this would be the end. Presumably, the couple would live happily ever after, but Alain de Botton is just getting started with Rabih and Kirsten’s journey through The Course of Love.
“Given that marriage yields its important lessons only to those who have enrolled in its curriculum, it’s normal that readiness should tend to follow rather than proceed the ceremony itself, perhaps by a decade or two.”
How many couples find pure wedded bliss after the honeymoon? Judging by the number of relationship books toppling the bestseller list and the skyrocketing divorce rate, reality is much different than the fairytale ending. De Botton proposes that to avoid a split, couples must not rely on romantic ideals but learn practical skills on how to love one another once the initial intoxication has worn away, just as students must learn algebra or chemistry. These academic lessons contrasting romantic love to reality punctuate each scene of Rabih and Kirsten’s relationship. The effect is a marriage between a literary novel and a relationship book that’s sure to have readers reexamining their ideas of love.
While the course of the readers’ own relationships may vary slightly or significantly from Rabih and Kirsten, de Botton has cleverly crafted a self-help novel that is captivating even when it strikes too close to home.
Sarah Hutchins is an English Instructor and freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She earned a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Antioch University and a Bachelors of Arts in English from Portland State University. Her sagging bookshelves suffer from a peculiar fate: for each book read and removed, three or four magically appear in its stead. The books that find a permanent home on these same shelves are typically classics, French literature, philosophical novels and essays, and magic realism.
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