Sarah's Reviews > On Love

On Love by Alain de Botton
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's review
Oct 27, 2011

really liked it

"There is nothing in this world but mad love..." --Mary Oliver

On Love in some ways evoked a far subtler version of Sophie's World -- philosophical instruction under the guise of a well-written novel. As the narrator acknowledges at certain points, while the lover feels unique in all the world, love is actually the most universal experience, and the purpose of the narrative is certainly to explore the universality of the experience, while couching his points in a specific story. The story's arc actually does serve to make his arguments more accessible, although perhaps less cohesive (than they would be in a purely philosophical argument built point by point).

The book's structure (including the numbering of each chapter), ceaseless allusions to culture, philosophy, history, etc., and the narrator's tone (is he really nameless throughout?) all contribute towards an enjoyable read and empathy with the unnamed main character.

My one point of frustration with the book, which is perhaps the point, is that the narrator does plunge headlong into love with no sense of rational restraint (which seems curious for such a "thinker" as he is). Of course, we all are subject to this "madness,"

"The philosophy of mature love is marked by an active awareness of the good and bad within each person. It is full of temperance, it resists idealization, it is free of jealousy, masochism, or obsession, it is a form of friendship with a sexual dimension, it is pleasant, peaceful, and reciprocated."
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