I’ve just this morning heard Alain de Botton talking to Chris Evans about his new book, which is out on the 28th. He repeated his assertion, which occurs several times in the book, that ‘We are all a bit mad’ and that in relationships we have to accept each others’ particular form of madness. When asked by Chris why he’d chosen to write a novel rather than just a list of thoughts about love and marriage he was rather vague. I think he just wanted to write a novel. I’d already written my review and here it is.
*Pause while I regain my internet connection. Grr.*
This is a strange book: part romantic novel rather on the lines of One Day, part marriage guidance manual.
It tells the story of the romance and marriage of Rabih and Kirsten, described as if by an impartial observer, rather like someone from Mass Observation. Events take place and as each milestone in the characters’ lives is reached a passage of analysis follows, in which the omniscient author explains why this is happening. The philosophical sections are written as though the thoughts expressed are universal truths. What do people expect from love and marriage? That it be lasting, totally monogamous and will provide the security previously known only in childhood, when parents were almost mind readers, able to interpret needs and fulfil them with correct actions and reassurance. Unconditional love, in fact. A tall order and unrealistic.
Here’s an example of the authorial comments which punctuate the book:
‘Were Rabih and Kirsten able to read about themselves as characters in a novel, they might – if the author had even a little talent – experience a brief but helpful burst of pity at their not at all unworthy plight, and thereby perhaps learn to dissolve some of the tension that arises on those evenings when, once the children are in bed, the apparently demoralizing and yet in truth deeply grand and significant topic of the ironing comes up.’
Although I found all this slightly odd, I did read this well written book very quickly and enjoyed it.
I read it courtesy of NetGalley.