The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping, and the Novel

Alain de Botton, Author Picador USA $23 (326p) ISBN 978-0-312-13159-3
Affable but uneven, this second novel (after On Love) by the young, London-based de Botton, is predicated on the same gimmick as his first: the evolution of a relationship between two London yuppies is intercut with digressive, theoretical musings on the nature of art and love. Alice and Eric are a couple so conventional as to have sprung from the pages of a Cosmopolitan romance quiz. She is a charmingly flaky, 20-something advertising rep; he a somewhat older, magnetic, successful but literal-minded banker. They date for a year, then break up. Their affair is seen from various angles and is never very engrossing, for it's ultimately just a springboard for de Botton's flamboyant hermeneutics of dating, rife with visual aids, such as cartoons and charts, and allusions to Flaubert, Wittgenstein and Hegel (like quintessential romantic heroine Emma Bovary, Alice desires nothing more than ``a union with a redemptive Other;'' like ``unfortunate Biblical anti-hero Job,'' she ``respects and trusts the other more than herself''). De Botton occasionally strikes a wrong note and comes off sounding prissy or arch. His many clever observations about love will nevertheless strike a nerve with readers who've suffered similar romantic ups and downs. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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