Let’s get one thing straight. This is neither your typical romance novel about a fantasy hot, erotic love that will never happen to you nor a written documentary about love found at the non-fiction section of the library to be discovered under ‘marriage and relationships’. It does not contain dark plot twists revealing a killer hiding in the basement since a fortnight ago, neither does it try to stimulate its readers’ minds with long-lost illegitimate children given up for adoption who are now seeking the identity of their birth parents.
This is the story of Rabih – a middle eastern guy, and Kirsten – a Scottish girl. The story starts typically with how they met each other, fell in love, got married, had children, yada yada. You must be thinking by now, how the heck is this different? The difference is in the narration.
The narrative is told from the perspective of both of the main characters as well a third person. I personally feel that the writing is rather ingenious. Some of the sentences were so wonderfully put together I just felt a compelling desire to read them again, appreciating its different nuances (think a diluted poem sans iambic pentameter).
We really get to peer into their minds, what they are thinking about at the very moment they are carrying our their actions. Mind you – not just look at their brains, but examining their neurotic pathways with an electron microscope, watching each synapse fire, linking to the next, and finally tracking the entire thought process.
Feelings are very well expressed too. I quote an example when Rabih falls infactuatingly in love with Kirsten: “It doesn’t seem the right moment to reveal that he would no less gladly help her to move house – or nurse her through malaria”
The narrative is interspersed with de Botton’s voice, which are his two cent’s (or maybe a dollar’s) worth on the current subject matter much akin to a running commentary. This can get a little preachy at times. Have you ever read “[insert your favorite topic] for Dummies”? There you go! His commentary is as much like the “useful tips to note” bits, helpfully inserted for the readers who are interested to receive some life lessons. I don’t understand why some readers dislike those bits. – I simply skipped past most of those sections.
The story spans nearly their whole life from childhood to old age. It is- I feel, a rather complete book as it would have some relevance to you whichever stage of life you are in.
Rating: 7.5/10 (very honest and humorous book on life and love and its different stages, beautifully crafted sentences, great insight into the mind. At some point preachy like an overbearing parent correcting a wayward child – but hell, just skip past those parts. (They are italicized for easy identification)