On Love: Book Review

I am in love with On Love by Alain de Botton.  This is de Botton’s first novel, and it may be my new favorite (I make no secret of the fact that I love everything that he writes.  Every time I read one of his books, in fact, it becomes my new favorite.  I don’t know if that is because I am serendipitously reading his books in order of increasing greatness, or I love all his books equally, and my love for the most recently completed book simply has the most pressing position in my consciousness).

On Love tracks the narrator as he is smitten by Chloe on a Paris-London flight, and by the time they’ve reached the luggage carousel he is in love.  On Love charts their affair from the giddy delirium of infatuation to the depths of suicidal despair, without ever losing its deliciously clever sense of humor (this preceding paragraph appears, in its entirety, on the back of the copy of the book I have; I thought it a good synopsis).

It took me over a year to read the book.  I could have read it more quickly, but I did not want to.  Truth be told, I was done with the first 3/4 within a day or so, but liked it so much, I couldn’t bring myself to complete it (anyone else ever done that?)  This is one of those books you don’t want to end.  You want it to just go on forever.  You want the characters to be real, and to be your close friends.  You want the author’s insights and anecdotes to go on in perpetuity.

The author has a gift, many gifts actually.  He is a genius, artistically and intellectually, make no mistake, but he also “sees” people.  Possesses uncanny insights into the human experience.  He not only feels emotions exactly as I feel them, but conveys them exactly as I feel them, only better.  And his writing is minimalist in a way.  Each line is just enough, but never too much, profound in its perfection and simplicity.

Sometimes when I read a book, I will have little yellow Post-Its on hand, and will mark quotable/discussion-worthy excerpts.  This entire book is riddled, sometimes 4 or 5 to a page, with little yellow sticky notes.  Every page is quotable, my favorite:

We are all more intelligent than we are capable, and awareness of the insanity of love has never saved anyone from the disease.

He tracks the whole relationship, from before the start to after the end, and all of the highs and lows, unfiltered, in between.  It speaks to me.  I have never seen anything like it.  I could not recommend it more highly.

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