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The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

by Venky

Let’s face it – the Alain De Botton of the non fiction genre is a much more upholstered (deservedly) and embellished attraction than the Alain De Botton of the novels. After a hiatus spanning almost two decades, De Botton returns to the world of the novels with “The Course of Love”. I personally could feel the influences of Milan Kundera and the dark shades of Michel Houllebecq (especially in the passages dealing with eroticism) in what otherwise is an engaging but disappointingly predictable love story.

Rabih Khan is an architect aspiring to place himself alongside the likes of Le Corbusier and Geoffrey Bawa in the world of structures, plans, shapes and designs. A environment plagued by recession and a cruel world of absent opportunities however put a dampener on the hopes and prospects of Rabih as he finds himself uprooted from bustling London and installed in a medium sized boutique architectural firm in Edinburgh. On an assignment involving the construction of a new roundabout he meets the feisty Kirsten McClelland, a bright woman raised by a single parent (an extremely protective mother) and who is the very epitome of independence. A few cups of tea and discussions involving concrete cements a relationship which ultimately results in marriage.

As De Botton takes pains to explain, the real love between two people does not merely end once they have decided to enter into a nuptial bond. To emphasise this aspect, De Botton takes us on a routine journey of marital bliss, marital discord, a temporary affair (the ending of which is as abrupt as its beginning in so far as paucity of details are concerned), the customary birthing of kids, the mandatory counselling with a polite, understanding albeit stern geriatric psychiatrist and finally the inevitable reconciliation over a bottle of expensive wine and in between the sheets of an exotic hotel bedroom.

The didactic simplicity of De Botton’s story is to a great extent marred by the inevitable element of its predictability. It is almost as if the reader can with unerring accuracy predict the thoughts, deeds and eccentricities of both Kirsten and Rabih even before proceeding to unravel the same in the ensuing pages.
“The Course of Love” – a feeble attempt to hoist a philosophical spin on an otherwise mellow journey into romance.

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