On Love 

is a bestselling psychological, philosophical and a very personal account of modern relationship that may ring familiar in most of the readers’ internal narratives. I love it! Gladly, I did not have as complicated relationship with the smooth pace of the book as the author ascribes to love.

With an almost microscopic analytic view Alain de Botton weaves with a surgical precision a typical evolution of a love story towards one of the conclusions that “love taught the analytic mind a certain humility”.

Yet, there is much more, the book On Love is a rare marriage of a writing talent enhanced by the author’s scientific savvy. In such, it recalls the narrative style of another popular author and sociology fan Malcolm Gladwell and the theme is coupled with science also the recently published Anatomy of Love by Helen Fisher, PhD. [soon to be reviewed at lamuseblue].

On Love book by Alain de Botton

As a debut novel written with a talented pen of the classically educated de Botton, On Love blooms through his irony, the teachings of philosophy, the analysis of the self (I – Confirmation), Psycho-Fatalism, the blind naivety towards suffering and betrayal through the Jesus Complex, the concept of beauty, intimacy, idealisation of the loved object, the bias of romantic fatalism (destiny and chance brought us together) and the vanity of romantic terrorism. Indeed, “once a partner has began to loose interest, there is apparently little the other can do to arrest the process”.

The fatal wounds of some arguments are dashed when “delays in explanations give grievances a weight that they would lack if the matter is addressed as soon as it has arisen.” Yes, we do this, perhaps unconsciously.

Why we suffer from the “Fear of Happiness” aka anhedonia?

De Botton pulls a direct answer touching on the acceptance of living in the present. Describing his life as the process of “anticipation in the morning, anxiety in the actuality, and pleasant memories in the evening”. We are irrational in our emotional behaviour, intuition and some thinking, but we cannot avoid that in order to preserve our humanness. The Stoics would deny love to themselves and like hermits close their minds to limit them to their self-observation and to the rational deductions of other human affairs, such as a friendship based on an intellectual hedonism (happiness). Love for the Stoic was a distraction from more honourable deeds such as philosophy, governance and education. De Botton is critical of this Stoic view by ushering humans into the theme of love between each other. Let it be it irrational. “Do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone?”

As much as this is a novel, impressive factual resources are pinned in the text. The concept of equal sharing in Marxism enters his love story, so does the dilemma of a person in a certain relationship that must be faced: the incompatibility of an immature love with liberalism.

Love is as much about:



unequal relationship

as it is about the butterflies in the stomach.

I was captured by the little book’s red cover at an airport on my way to London, where the story is set. As most humans, the “nature of love” puzzles me. It comes and it goes. I am talking about the immature love, its foolishness, that is explored by the author. As opposing to a mature, grounded and long lasting love, strongly based on the pillar of friendship, empathy and wisdom, the up and downs of the immature love are as exciting as a ride on a rollercoaster. You go up in elation and down in fear. The pain, desire and cruelty of an unequal relationship emerge from the story between the narrator, an architect working in London, and a self-deprecating Chloe. For Londoners many stages of the love story will ring familiar rendering the read more smooth.

Sheila Heti, a NY Times bestselling author of How Should a Person Be?, captured the core of the book in her new introduction: On Love is “a guide through the landscape of contemporary romance”. Dating today often starts on the planes, while traveling, is carried through the work place to our city apartments, that we rarely are willing to share with an intruder, and all of that resonates in Alain de Botton’s novel. The story peaks on a betrayal in the form of cheating with a better achieving work colleague, blitzed catastrophe, thoughts of suicide, …

and then he meets Rachel.

Love Lessons close the book with an optimistic entree into the author’s more recent book on mature love. On Love illustrates through its story the greatest paradoxes of love. The book won’t answer why we fell in love so easily, although some cues to the puzzle emerge throughout – perhaps it is inherent in the irrationality of love, the fire of emotions that burns so intensely that we cannot use the reason to get the riddle of love solved.

The length of each chapter is appropriate and condensed so the reader doe not get easily bored or tired of the book. You will be drawn back to finishing it, eagerly devouring each page with an involved interest, while inserting your own ideals and doubts about love.

The very well written and realism cum irony employing book amuses, but also sketches not just through the originally paired words, but also includes drawings of some models of beauty, and wisely chosen quotes by the well-read author.

On beauty:

“Proust once said, classically beautiful women should be left to men without imagination.”

What a relief for any ageing woman!