I bought Essays in Love way back at the beginning of the year. I was in a charity shop looking for a skirt, as you do, and casually perused the book section. Being unable to leave a shop without a book and having vaguely heard of Alain de Botton, I headed back to work a skirt and book heavier.
The narrator is smitten by Chloe on a Paris-London flight, and by the time they’ve reached the luggage carousel, he knows he is in love. He loves her chestnut hair and pale nape and watery green eyes, the way she drives a car and eats Chinese food, the gap that makes her teeth Kantian and not Platonic, her views on Heidegger’s Being and Time – although he hates her taste in shoes.
On Love plots the course of their affair from the initial delirium of infatuation to the depths of suicidal despair, through the (Groucho) “Marxist” stage of coming to terms with being loved by the unattainable beloved, through a fit of anhedonia, defined in medical texts as a disease resulting from the terror brought on by the threat of utter happiness, and finally through the nausea induced and terrorist tactics employed when the beloved begins, inexplicably, to drift away. GoodReads.
Intellectually this is a very enjoyable novel, its interesting dissection of love carried me through till the end. The story, however, was underwhelming. I found I read to understand how he used philosophy to understand love, not the love story itself. One man’s introspective (and somewhat melodramatic) adventure in love, and then its disintegration, was just that bit outside the zone of my interest.
I’ve not read a book on philosophy since university (which now I think on it is longer ago than I feel comfortable with). So I probably failed to understand more of Essays in Love than I would have liked. I enjoyed the merging of fiction and non-fiction to create an accessible book for subjects not so readily discussed.
If you’re interested in philosophy, or an intellectual look at love this is the book for you.