Love—a dozen fragrant red roses, dazzling diamond rings, and cliché happily-ever-afters. The idea of love, as defined by the mass media and years of romantic literature, has been portrayed as the epitome of beauty, so much so that tainting its name is almost impossible. However, unlike conventional romance stories, Alain deBotton’s The Course of Love (2016) does the unthinkable. He redefines what love truly is by depicting both thepleasant and the ugly aspects, all from the perspectives of Kirsten and Rabiha—a couple testing the strength of theirlove through a rocky long-term relationship.
▲ The Course of Love book cover.
The story begins as two protagonists, Scottish Kirsten and German Lebanese Rabih, meet through work and become instantly drawn to each other. It is love at first sight, indeed, as they start spending a considerable amount of time together, sharing their pain of losing a parent as children. It is only natural that their relationship begins and develops gradually. They eventually tie the knot, promising to be with each other for the rest of their lives. This, however, is only the beginning of what would be a remarkable plot.
As de Botton writes, “What we typicallycall love is only the start of love.” The story of Kirsten and Rabih’s romance goes beyond the day they wed. As months and years pass, they start experiencing challenges in their relationship. Such events include getting into petty fights about which tumbler to buy, blamingeach other on a bad day, or evenprioritizing parenting over their ownmarriage. All of these misfortunes thatRabih and Kirsten experience drive thetwo lovers farther and farther from oneanother. In the midst of everything, it is asif no hope was left and they could onlyrestort to separation.
Love, contrary to expectations, is notalways a source of smiles. On certain occasions, it is one that causes excruciating pain to an individual. This point is well portrayed in The Course of Love, where de Botton exposes readers to the harsh realities of relationships through the experience of Kirsten and Rabih. He makes readers realize that love, at times, involves ignorance and betrayal—the very two things society normally does not associate with intimacy and affection. However, the ultimate beauty of this book relies on its power to help readers realize that it takes two to make or break a relationship.
At the end of the book, readers will come to accept that a real life couple, indeed, has a lot to learn and reflect on from the story of Kirsten and Rabih. Reading this book gives one an opportunity to redefine their concept of love, and understand that love is the encapsulation of both the ups and downs of the decision to become a lifelongcompanion of another being. Love, by thecharacterization of The Course of Love, is not one that completes a person. It is, on the contrary, a source of nourishment that nurtures one to grow more and more each day through a long-lasting journey. Ultimately, The Course of Love is a story of adoration, hate, openness, secrets, despair, and redemption. It is not just a story of struggle, but of true love.