On Love is the first ‘novel’ I’ve read by Alain de Botton, although I would say it’s closer to a memoir. I’ve read several of his essay collections previously, The Architecture of Happiness and The Art of Travel. I’ve decided that he is an author people are either going to love or really not be into, and to tell the truth this might depend on 1) whether you like his subject matter or 2) whether you are a person who habitually overanalyzes everything.
Alain de Botton applies philosophy to everyday subjects, and in On Love he recounts his love affair with Chloe from beginning to end. From musing on why we feel the need to be honest in a way with a lover we don’t with a friend (i.e. telling them their shoes are hideous, when with a friend we would say the shoes are cute and move on), to discussing the small crushes lovers develop on other people, and then chronicling the slow erosion of a relationship, de Botton cites experiences everyone can relate to in a funny and insightful manner. Example:
Chloe and I would never have been as brutal to our friends as we were to each other. But we equated intimacy with a form of ownership and license. We may have been kind, but we were no longer polite. When we started arguing one night about the films of Eric Rohmer (she hated them, I loved them), we forgot there was a chance Rohmer’s films could be both good and bad, depending on who was watching them. She degenerated into calling me “a stuffy overintellectual turd”; I reciprocated by judging her “a degenerate product of modern capitalism” (proving her accusation in the process).
I ended up underlining at least a third of this book, and identified with various sections far more than I would like to admit- which is why I’m posting this on the internet, clearly. But I am a perfectionist who overanalyzes everything and has ridiculously high expectations of people. Also, I have been known to criticize shoes, because Crocs are a horribly ugly abomination that should be vanquished from this earth. So perhaps I identify a bit much with the stories in On Love, but most of all, I identified with the hope it takes to love someone and then begin to to even think about loving another after the relationship has ended.