A Crash Course in the Long-Term Relationship

Yoona Lee in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

The-Course-of-Love-image-1In 1993 an unusually precocious 23-year-old named Alain de Botton rocked the literary world with the release of his first novel, On Love (also known as Essays in Love). Since then he has become a minor cultural phenomenon, thanks in part to his preternatural understanding of the human condition, unerringly articulate writing, and embrace of a mind-bogglingly broad array of subject matter, from commercial cookie manufacturing to Roman architecture. An accomplished polymath, de Botton is a journalist, novelist, and philosopher who has even founded a global, multichannel enterprise called The School of Life. For more than two decades, his second novel has been breathlessly anticipated by his admirers.

Written in de Botton’s characteristic style — accessible and sprinkled with friendly parenthetical asides — The Course of Love picks up where On Love leaves off. The main character of that novel, a Lebanese-German named Rabih Khan, has grown into a young man of 31. An architect now living in Edinburgh, he still slams doors during arguments, enjoys a good sulk now and then, and has a penchant for pragmatic, independent-minded women with ruddy hair and charmingly imperfect teeth. He is still an unabashed and incurable Romantic.

When Rabih meets his client, an unflappable Scottish woman named Kirsten McLelland, he quickly falls deeply in love. Soon they are dating, and at the end of the second chapter, de Botton summarizes their entire subsequent relationship in stark terms. The couple will marry and encounter major challenges along with the banality of domestic life. Over the course of 13 years, they will have a daughter followed by a son, and one will have an affair. “This will be the real love story,” the author concludes.

More here.