Antidote

A few months ago, during a sunny spring weekend that coincided with my 12th wedding anniversary, I read Alain de Botton's The Course of Love. I'd been hearing about the book for a while (and about de Botton for even longer) so I came to it with curiosity and an open mind. In hindsight, this is perhaps the best way to approach The Course of Love. It's a quirky kind of book, part novel, part how-to manual, a hybrid experiment in something I might call didactic fiction. Except didactic fiction sounds plodding and high-handed and The Course of Love is neither.

The book follows Rabih and Kirsten, a couple in Edinburgh. They meet, fall in love, marry, have children, and you as reader-voyeur follow the trajectory of their relationship. It's illuminating and honest and at various points along the way the narrator - sounding very much like a dispassionate anthropologist, a voice-over on one of those nature shows - interrupts with wry commentary. Musing on the fickleness of infatuation, for example, the narrator says: "The only people who can still strike us as normal are those we donā€™t yet know very well. The best cure for love is to get to know them better."

There were times when I genuinely burst out laughing. Or nodded in agreement. What de Botton has written is a necessary antidote to every false and silly notion we've been spoon-fed about love and romance and long-term commitment. It's the kind of book everyone should read when they are young, 19 or 20, and then again once a decade.