Kate's Reviews > On Love

On Love by Alain de Botton
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Feb 18, 09

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Read in January, 1999

On Love charts a love affair between the narrator and Chloe, a woman he meets on a British Airways carrier from Paris to England. After “an exchange of biography,” the usual digression begins: romance, intimacy, heartbreak and rebirth (or progression, depending on which way you look at it).

Sharp and witty, de Botton is the kind of person you hope to be seated next to at a dinner party. While in the throes of love’s grip, watching his beloved in a grocery store, he tells us: “For a moment, I fantasized I might transform myself into a carton of yogurt so as to undergo the same process of being gently and thoughtfully accommodated by her into a shopping bag between a tin of tuna and a bottle of olive oil.” Since, however, so much relies on a clever object/subject retelling of events, smirking, he follows this reverie announcing: “It was only the incongruously unsentimental atmosphere of the supermarket [‘Liver Promotion Week’:] that alerted me to how far I might have been sliding into romantic pathology.”

Romantic pathology,” or the way Love, in its Cyclops-singularity, gains dominion over our every minute, is given ample deconstruction in On Love. Oh, but doesn’t Love shred our reason, destabilize our confidence, sucker-punch our gut and invade our sleep? Its sorcery turns the rational, irrational; the meek, bold; the good-natured, envious; the tranquil, vociferous. While reading On Love, I winced at the familiarity of the love game. How the self is adapted to woo the lover. How, as de Botton deduces, “Seduction is a form of acting, a move from spontaneous behaviour to behaviour shaped by an audience.” How flaws we would normally perceive in others, is disregarded. “How hard it [is:] to keep a level head, when Cupid [is:] such a biased interpreter?” And how heartbreaking then, that when love dissolves, or is “translated,” the lover stands as aloof as a stranger before us. And isn’t it sort of bittersweet funny -- after time has elapsed, of course -- when you think back to the complicit charade?

Speaking of lessons, I learned plenty after reading On Love. We may not want to admit it but relationships and people carry a certain homogeny about them. We’re not as unique as we’d like to think, which I think is a very good thing. It means our “true love” or “soul mate” or whatever you call the ex-love you pine after, is actually still out there. As de Botton recognizes: "Wisdom teaches us that our first impulses may not always be true, and that our appetites will lead us astray if we do not train reason to separate vain from genuine needs.” Think about it.

Just so you all know, I'm a huge fan of Bookslut reviews and a lot of this was taken from Iris Benaroia's very well written review which can be found here http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2004_... I couldn't of said it better myself. Thanks Iris for your wonderful insights into such a moving book.
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Quotes Kate Liked

Alain de Botton
“We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.”
Alain de Botton, On Love


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