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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 10 May 2006
In the first part of his novel, Mr de Botton introduces his main character, Alice, and discusses the notion of reality with the help of such philosophers as Heraclitus, Plato, Hegel or Shopenhauer and poses the question, following Oscar Wilde, whether art imitates life or life that imitates art. We may for instance like Paris more than London because we know the former city through the eyes of painters like Manet, Degas or Pissaro or through films by Truffaut or Godard. The author then discusses the difference between imitative and autonomous desire and then engages in the argument that Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is the first novel (published in 1856) which links the two activities of sex and shopping which are psychologically intertwined.

Then Alice meets Eric at a party and this gives the author the opportunity to write about love, indeterminacy, the idealisation of the lover, the value systems in a love relationship or the power in love. Do we love the partner's money, body, achievements, weaknesses or anxieties? Is thinking problem-induced or problem-inducing? How does the cultural baggage of infancy and youth, of relations and traditions influence one's relationship with a partner?

This book is an original hybrid, part novel, part philosophical reverie which is not without charm. Some readers have complained that Alain de Botton all too often states the obvious and it is true that his novel does not present any revelations but it is enjoyable to read nevertheless.
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on 17 November 2000
I loved this book! ... It's a funny and very original and unusual analysis of of a relationship between Alice and Eric, taking modern problems and adding a philsophical analysis, with references to Flaubert, Pavlov's dog etc. But it's not overly clever too - the style is simple and lucid so you don't have to be an academic to enjoy it. But what was really amazing about this book was that it's written from a female viewpoint. I have never read a book, written by a man, that conveys a female pyschology with such accuracy and sensitivity. Extraordinary!
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on 13 May 2001
Alain de Botton has written a smart variation on the romantic novel by taking the basic structure of a Mills and Boon fantasy and using it as a springboard for philosophical reflections on the nature of romantic love. The result is a curious hybrid, which is satisfying neither as a novel nor as an essay, but has something of the nature of each. It as though a middlebrow academic had been invited to make marginal comments on a trashy novella, and been slightly carried away.
The integration of the material is better than that description suggests, but the constant diversion away from the matter of the story to the more abstract matter of de Botton's divagations on the theme of love becomes irritating, as do his strenuous attempts to flesh out characters whose function as pegs for ideas is rather too evident. The philosophical material is banal, as though the author is constantly having to remind himself that he is in fact writing a work of popular fiction, and so cannot risk difficulty.
"The Romantic Movement" is never less than readable, but one can see why de Botton has since become known for non-fictional investigations of philosophy and Proust, rather than as a novelist.
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on 14 January 2000
This book breaks all the rules about how novels should be written and yet succeeds wonderfully. It's a meditation on a relationship, with the author breaking off to reflect on what is going on in the character's heads. Its charming, funny, clever and thoughtprovoking.
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on 25 June 2007
This combines Candace Bushnell with Eliade and maybe Shaw. The main character, Alice, seems to be an ordinary girl, getting involved in an ordinary relationship and asking herself the ordinary questions. However, the randomness of the moments analized with such delicacy and insight into the female thoughts, insecurities and desire for a perfect complementary male make it an exceptional read. This is Sex and the City, without the glamour and with more philosophy and depth to it. It could use some more action, though i did not necesarily feel the lack of it while reading the book.I could not help but relate to the circumstances and sometimes reactions of the character, her mood swings, her unispired moments as well as her struggle not to settle in an emotional vacuum. Alain de Botton could frankly be the best lunch date author!
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on 27 October 2012
The summary as written on line prepared one for this book. No great surprises. Enjoyable to read if this is your taste in literature
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