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The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping, and the Novel

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In The Romantic Movement, Alain de Botton explores the progress of a love affair from first meeting to breaking up, intercut with musings on the nature of art of love. The relationship between Alice, an advertising executive, and Eric, a banker, is examined at every stage, supplemented by quizzes and line drawings by the author and commentary by a chorus of great philosoph In The Romantic Movement, Alain de Botton explores the progress of a love affair from first meeting to breaking up, intercut with musings on the nature of art of love. The relationship between Alice, an advertising executive, and Eric, a banker, is examined at every stage, supplemented by quizzes and line drawings by the author and commentary by a chorus of great philosophers, from Descartes to Plato to Aretha Franklin. The Romantic Movement will charm readers and lovers alike with wit, insight, and intelligence.


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In The Romantic Movement, Alain de Botton explores the progress of a love affair from first meeting to breaking up, intercut with musings on the nature of art of love. The relationship between Alice, an advertising executive, and Eric, a banker, is examined at every stage, supplemented by quizzes and line drawings by the author and commentary by a chorus of great philosoph In The Romantic Movement, Alain de Botton explores the progress of a love affair from first meeting to breaking up, intercut with musings on the nature of art of love. The relationship between Alice, an advertising executive, and Eric, a banker, is examined at every stage, supplemented by quizzes and line drawings by the author and commentary by a chorus of great philosophers, from Descartes to Plato to Aretha Franklin. The Romantic Movement will charm readers and lovers alike with wit, insight, and intelligence.

30 review for The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping, and the Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I read this book in one sitting, and it reminds me of spending a day with a particularly insightful friend, who casually sizes up the motives at play between people of a particular character, throwing light on common experiences in the process. Similar to Milan Kundera, Alain de Botton uses fiction in order to build on his ideas. Only for de Botton, the narrator muffles the life between the characters with his more pressing need to dissect their psychological motives. The storyline mainly concer I read this book in one sitting, and it reminds me of spending a day with a particularly insightful friend, who casually sizes up the motives at play between people of a particular character, throwing light on common experiences in the process. Similar to Milan Kundera, Alain de Botton uses fiction in order to build on his ideas. Only for de Botton, the narrator muffles the life between the characters with his more pressing need to dissect their psychological motives. The storyline mainly concerns the protagonist Alice's love life, (although it tries to shift the camera to other characters that, in protection of Alice's point of view, it doesn't portray with respect) but this is really a backdrop for de Botton's aptitude for defining the factors at play in a typical 24 year old's romantic scenario. I particularly enjoyed the interplay of brief symbolic images into the text, which meshed well with the way in which de Botton writes in order to catalogue and unpack the motives at play in people. Despite the perhaps ill-suited form which the book took, every other sentence gave an "ah hah" moment, and reminded me of something de Botton wrote about Stendhal: "Stendhal once compared introducing ideas into a novel to letting a gun go off in a concert hall, and even outside the genteel world of the concert hall-novel, it is still thought best to cloak advice as other things - to render it abstract enough to become Sartrean philosophy, Symbolist poetry or a Scandinavian motion picture." Other quotes I enjoyed from the book, chosen from a hundred other options: "To have a sexual history did not only imply one had made love to a succession of people, it also suggested one had either rejected or been rejected by these same bedroom companions. A more melancholy way of looking at the history of sexual technique was to read in it a history of disappointment." "What is good fiscal policy may be bad amorous policy - for part of love is to fall into debt and yet tolerate the uncertainty arising from owing someone something, trusting them with the ensuing power, the choice it gives them of how and when to claim their dues....The word power typically signifies a capacity for action...But in love, the issue appears to depend on a far more passive, negative definition; instead of looking at power as a capacity to do something, one may come to think of it as the capacity to do nothing...power in love arises from the ability not to give a damn."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    Fantastic! In case you can't tell, I love all of this guy's stuff. Fascinating, insightful, deliciously well-written. This guy GETS relationships. Their complexity, their imbalance, their transient natures. And this particular book, more than any of his others thus far, captures certain concepts that I have often experienced, and thought about, but felt certain were unique to me. He understands my (and probably many other people's) approach to feelings. Why we like who we like, though we often s Fantastic! In case you can't tell, I love all of this guy's stuff. Fascinating, insightful, deliciously well-written. This guy GETS relationships. Their complexity, their imbalance, their transient natures. And this particular book, more than any of his others thus far, captures certain concepts that I have often experienced, and thought about, but felt certain were unique to me. He understands my (and probably many other people's) approach to feelings. Why we like who we like, though we often shouldn't. Why we're liked by who we're liked by, though we wish we weren't. And the whole time he is both FUNNY and BRILLIANT. I could not recommend it more highly!

  3. 5 out of 5

    ann

    After reading a few of De Botton's other books geared toward history and philosophy, I have to believe that this book was written on a dare or was a personal challenge to himself. Then again, De Botton specializes in exploring the mundane facets of life and rediscovering them for his reader's benefit… so perhaps modern romantic fling shouldn't be off limits for cultural analysis. The strength of this story is the fact that these characters and their relationship are so typical and common place.. After reading a few of De Botton's other books geared toward history and philosophy, I have to believe that this book was written on a dare or was a personal challenge to himself. Then again, De Botton specializes in exploring the mundane facets of life and rediscovering them for his reader's benefit… so perhaps modern romantic fling shouldn't be off limits for cultural analysis. The strength of this story is the fact that these characters and their relationship are so typical and common place.. Most urban women have likely have been through one of these relationships and will be able to relate easily to the protagonist, Alice. However, if Alice was your friend and was looking to you for a listening ear, you would probably find her boring and her naivety irritating. Everyone has heard a girl on her cell phone, bragging, complaining, or just relating to someone else about a relationship. I think my first instinct to this kind of narcissism is an embarrassment because I have been this woman at one point…but I react to other women who do this by rolling my eyes. De Botton take this sort of relationship seriously and manages to unpack the trivial and connect aspects of the relationship and these typical characters to our modern culture...that constitutes the "sex, shopping, and the novel" part of the title. That said, I have complaints too. He definitely borrows a lot from Milan Kundera for the structure of the novel. He mixes straight story telling with the voice of a narrator who analyzes the characters and events through historical and philosophical perspective. However, I think his structure failed here...Where Kundera's narrative and analytical voice creates rhythms with the story line, De Botton seems to interrupt his own story to lecture and over demonstrate. (Although I liked the analysis and appreciated the diagrams.) Details of the story line seem fabricated just to provide an excuse or segue in analysis...and at that point you aren't sure if he's writing to convince you or himself...The organic feeling you get while reading Kundera is not there. ...But, I liked it and I didn't expect De Botton to be much of a fiction writer. I might try reading some of his straight novels after this. I think this book was an experiment in mixing two genres. As a voice and as a lyrical read, the experiment was not successful. For the information it imparts and for the intermittent moments of brilliance, I liked it and have to respect it. I think I'm going to reread The Unbearable Lightness of Being next though. I recommend this book to anyone who liked the Romantic Movement.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tusam D.Clide

    Well, the only reason I bestow somewhat poor rating for The Romantic Movement is that it was not fitting for my personal taste. It is a fine book. It is an amazing demonstration of how inner spectrum of love from two opposite sides work. It's vast- how much the book offers. I see why Alain de Botton is praised as one of the most intellectual minds of this era. But the problem is that all he does is lecturing. He explains every tiny move that is made within a relationship between Alice and Eric. Well, the only reason I bestow somewhat poor rating for The Romantic Movement is that it was not fitting for my personal taste. It is a fine book. It is an amazing demonstration of how inner spectrum of love from two opposite sides work. It's vast- how much the book offers. I see why Alain de Botton is praised as one of the most intellectual minds of this era. But the problem is that all he does is lecturing. He explains every tiny move that is made within a relationship between Alice and Eric. It's exhausting after awhile- de Botton speaks as he shall present this eureka-like truth beneath the countless philosophical demonstrations, but really all he does is analyzing, nothing more. After reading, there is this discomfort..like something is not resolved when It had been promised to me. It was quite marvelous how he fluently guided a journey of ever-changing Alice's attitude. But the book stayed way too long on the 'ah I love him - I love him more than he loves me - but he loves me too so it's alright' part. de Button literally vexed me so much that I almost gave up reading twice. As an analysis of love - , I guess the book is phenomenal. As a novel, as a work of literature - it was a bit of torture. There was no ambiguity. There was no abstract about it. There is no romance because endless analysis killed it. There was no love in this book, because love was extinguished by sharp and detailed reasoning. There were only these tiny movements that happened on each page that tested my tolerance over and over.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Xinyu

    A simple, clearly written book. This is the kind of book that makes me complain my reading speed.. I guess the reason I am not a big fan of this kind of books any more is that there is nothing to contemplate on, I read it once and get the idea and that's it. Alain de Botton in this book tried to philosophize and rationalize the feelings of love. He reads well - this book is full of quotes from other philosophers and writers, and has some witty comments. But the affectionate feeling between man a A simple, clearly written book. This is the kind of book that makes me complain my reading speed.. I guess the reason I am not a big fan of this kind of books any more is that there is nothing to contemplate on, I read it once and get the idea and that's it. Alain de Botton in this book tried to philosophize and rationalize the feelings of love. He reads well - this book is full of quotes from other philosophers and writers, and has some witty comments. But the affectionate feeling between man and women, to me, is nothing special but delusions and hormone-driven passions. It only becomes something more meaningful with conscious effort and mutual awareness and willingness to grow within it. I witness my own feelings evolving while reading this book. It rationalizes a lot of my seemingly "out-of-nowhere" feelings, the crush, the desire to be in a relationship, the doubts, and finally a clearer view of why I have those doubts and what I really want in a relationship. Ehhh, "why would anyone would wish to exchange a 'peaceful' life for the emotional turbulence of a relationship?" Ha, maybe there will be less emotional turbulent ones. Let me answer this question using another book's review "...it is the fear of uncertainty to our life that make us a living organism with heart. What’s amazing to me is no matter how uncertain or fearful we are, sometimes we are still brave enough to step our toes in the ocean of uncertainties and discover that it is beautiful."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rach The Great

    Another insightful book by de Botton into the plight of the middle class (in the West) on the nature of relationships, in particular those with unequal power dynamics. The second half of the book picks up at a better pace, with lots of "aha I've noticed this but never analysed it to this extreme" moments as de Botton unpacks the thoughts of Alice/Eric/Phillip. Recommended for those in a relationship rut, or anyone interested in relationship dynamics generally Another insightful book by de Botton into the plight of the middle class (in the West) on the nature of relationships, in particular those with unequal power dynamics. The second half of the book picks up at a better pace, with lots of "aha I've noticed this but never analysed it to this extreme" moments as de Botton unpacks the thoughts of Alice/Eric/Phillip. Recommended for those in a relationship rut, or anyone interested in relationship dynamics generally

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    This writer is BRILLIANT!! So insightful, funny, erudite. He analyzes the complete cycle of a relationship from lust to bitter breakup. He is SO emphatically on the woman's side, which I liked ;) Oh, and he also uses diagrams and drawings to make his points - very original. This writer is BRILLIANT!! So insightful, funny, erudite. He analyzes the complete cycle of a relationship from lust to bitter breakup. He is SO emphatically on the woman's side, which I liked ;) Oh, and he also uses diagrams and drawings to make his points - very original.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stan Georgiana

    Not his best.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Martin

    I suppose this is sort of a prequel to The Course of Love, which I loved, but this felt far less insightful.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    I bought this because de Botton is auto-buy, and especially because this hints at the wonders his On Love wrought on me. I hate to pull a comparison between the two, but if a brawl broke out in a seedy bar somewhere, On Love will throw chairs and knee groins, and The Romantic Movement will be ensconced in a corner table, surveying the proceedings with a sniff-ish air. Like On Love, The Romantic Movement—subtitled “Sex, Shopping, and the Novel”—is an examination of a trajectory of a love story. Ou I bought this because de Botton is auto-buy, and especially because this hints at the wonders his On Love wrought on me. I hate to pull a comparison between the two, but if a brawl broke out in a seedy bar somewhere, On Love will throw chairs and knee groins, and The Romantic Movement will be ensconced in a corner table, surveying the proceedings with a sniff-ish air. Like On Love, The Romantic Movement—subtitled “Sex, Shopping, and the Novel”—is an examination of a trajectory of a love story. Our girl’s resigned, bitter, idealistic longing for a soulmate. Our guy’s casual breeze into her life. How they fall in love, or how they say they fall in love. What makes it a de Botton novel is the author’s constant intrusion: Shopping will summon Emma Bovary, wine-tasting might summon Proust. The main difference, though, between TRM and OL is that the latter made you invest in the characters, the people involved in the love story the author-narrator is dissecting. TRM looks at them as specimens, sometimes as vehicles for theory and embodiments of Perfect Examples of X—they were rarely actual people for me. I suspect TRM is more detached, if colder. There is the same erudition, of course, the same breathlessness for the language. But the tone and treatment can make you cringe with unease at times. These characters are bugs, and you’re just peeking into the Petri dish with de Botton over there.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AliceG

    Pretentious, pompous writing that's also patronizing. This book has it all. It's like a bad case of mansplaining on 300 pages. Drawings to summarize the pseudo-philosophical explanations of why things go wrong in a relationship? You can't make this up. Pretentious, pompous writing that's also patronizing. This book has it all. It's like a bad case of mansplaining on 300 pages. Drawings to summarize the pseudo-philosophical explanations of why things go wrong in a relationship? You can't make this up.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Metzdorf

    Alain de Botton is one of my favorite authors, but they do all tend to run together, though not in an unpleasant way. De Botton's characters are unmemorable, not because he is a poor writer but because his focus is not on character. Rather, he uses his characters as vehicles through which to analyze modern life, relationships, and love in a near-essay form. The characters become case-studies, the scene of each chapter elucidating one key point, which de Botton extends from the individual to the Alain de Botton is one of my favorite authors, but they do all tend to run together, though not in an unpleasant way. De Botton's characters are unmemorable, not because he is a poor writer but because his focus is not on character. Rather, he uses his characters as vehicles through which to analyze modern life, relationships, and love in a near-essay form. The characters become case-studies, the scene of each chapter elucidating one key point, which de Botton extends from the individual to the universal through allusions to classical art, literature, philosophy, and psychology, also peppering in graphics to aid those who are more visual learners. What was a little unflattering about this book, however, was that I found striking similarities between Eric (who is not the most pleasant person) and myself. But de Botton's books are meant to be transformative and educational. I feel more aware of the way in which I interact with others, and I always look forward to having a few more Proust quotes to throw around.

  13. 4 out of 5

    V

    This book analyzes the relationship between Alice and Eric, from the first time they meet until...well, I don't want to spoil the ending. Alain de Botton covers pretty much every stage of a relationship, except marriage (that's a whole different novel I'd say). It's an interesting mix of fiction and analysis which is very unique, and new to me. Alice is a very emotional and sensitive person while Eric would prefer to avoid all things sentimental and would like to live in his own world where he i This book analyzes the relationship between Alice and Eric, from the first time they meet until...well, I don't want to spoil the ending. Alain de Botton covers pretty much every stage of a relationship, except marriage (that's a whole different novel I'd say). It's an interesting mix of fiction and analysis which is very unique, and new to me. Alice is a very emotional and sensitive person while Eric would prefer to avoid all things sentimental and would like to live in his own world where he is boss. De Botton follows them throughout their relationship, from dinner dates to Christmas vacation abroad, and showcases dialogue that reveals each person's inner thinking and how they deal with problems in the relationship. Overall, it is an interesting read. For those who aren't really into philosophy, the book will take a bit longer to digest and finish (like me). I will definitely re-read this sometime in the future. I'll likely learn more lessons from it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Em

    This is a part novel, part psychological interpretation of actions and thought processes involving a couple's relationship. de Botton charts out the couple's personalities and the problems in their relationship as it progresses till it falters. This book has provided me with a fresh perspective on de Botton's writing and makes me more aware of my actions based on circumstances and feelings in relating to people. The ending is open ended which left me with questions on the protagonist's decision. This is a part novel, part psychological interpretation of actions and thought processes involving a couple's relationship. de Botton charts out the couple's personalities and the problems in their relationship as it progresses till it falters. This book has provided me with a fresh perspective on de Botton's writing and makes me more aware of my actions based on circumstances and feelings in relating to people. The ending is open ended which left me with questions on the protagonist's decision.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Selma

    Pretentious and clunky.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky Straub

    This was my February selection for my book club. I liked it more after our discussion, but parts were hard to read. It's a mix-up of styles and didn't flow nicely. This was my February selection for my book club. I liked it more after our discussion, but parts were hard to read. It's a mix-up of styles and didn't flow nicely.

  17. 5 out of 5

    hyerim lee

    easy to read, but no reason to read. something pseudo. nothing new, just collection of things that already said about love and relationship. I'd rather read Fromm's the Art of Loving once more. easy to read, but no reason to read. something pseudo. nothing new, just collection of things that already said about love and relationship. I'd rather read Fromm's the Art of Loving once more.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tan Clare

    It is perhaps timely that I completed this book tonight, after a not particularly smooth day spent with my fiance. On introspection, I was a bit disturbed by my own lack of selflessness towards him. After all it was merely a chronic habit of his, and that slam of my foot by the taxi door was definitely an accident. Then why so much pent up bile inside over these trivial matters? I had embarked on my relationship with him a year ago, both of us taking pride in how selfless and mature our attitudes It is perhaps timely that I completed this book tonight, after a not particularly smooth day spent with my fiance. On introspection, I was a bit disturbed by my own lack of selflessness towards him. After all it was merely a chronic habit of his, and that slam of my foot by the taxi door was definitely an accident. Then why so much pent up bile inside over these trivial matters? I had embarked on my relationship with him a year ago, both of us taking pride in how selfless and mature our attitudes and mindsets. Contrary to that crap MPC theology of the body, holy sacrament theory we forcefully ingested over the past 2 months due to wedding requirements of the Catholic church, I guess now at this stage it take a greater courage of sorts to acknowledge the very human selfishness in our romantic relationship, and this courage perhaps points towards a raw beautiful honesty that I must defend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Alain de Botton keeps dissecting different kinds of romantic relationships, from beginning to (inevitable?) end, and I keep enjoying it. Here we have a minutely described case of unbalanced relationship between a cold and emotionally unavailable man and an empathetic and generous woman who becomes a pushover only because she is a kind and caring person. Well, well, now what does this remind me of?.. I wish I couldn't identify with the female character so easily but I totally did. And I certainly Alain de Botton keeps dissecting different kinds of romantic relationships, from beginning to (inevitable?) end, and I keep enjoying it. Here we have a minutely described case of unbalanced relationship between a cold and emotionally unavailable man and an empathetic and generous woman who becomes a pushover only because she is a kind and caring person. Well, well, now what does this remind me of?.. I wish I couldn't identify with the female character so easily but I totally did. And I certainly liked the way this novel ended. Just the ending I hoped for.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jorge

    In this book —can we call it a novel?—, Alain de Botton draws on the feelings and thoughts that may cross our minds during the course of a romantic relationship. Taking as a basis the particulars of an unextraordinary—though rather well-off, in my view—London couple, we get a deeper understanding of how love works. I think this book is worthy as a reflection—or essay—on love (and the human psyche), but not so much as a work of fiction, as the ups and downs of Alice and Eric function more as an e In this book —can we call it a novel?—, Alain de Botton draws on the feelings and thoughts that may cross our minds during the course of a romantic relationship. Taking as a basis the particulars of an unextraordinary—though rather well-off, in my view—London couple, we get a deeper understanding of how love works. I think this book is worthy as a reflection—or essay—on love (and the human psyche), but not so much as a work of fiction, as the ups and downs of Alice and Eric function more as an example of the theory he puts forward than a story as such.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anna Melisande

    An amazing character study, an amazingly detailed view and thinking-through-ments about the human mind. The actions and behaviour we have when being in love, when wànting to be in love, when trying to make it work. How we trick our mind, how we fail to see certain things. A lot becomes very recognisable, whether as seen in friends or whether seen (in bits or wholly) in yourself and past relationships; ongoing struggles with yourself, others and the world as it is. Really a great De Botton book !

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nickky Faustine de Guzman

    If de Botton were a filmmaker, he would be a great auteur. His oeuvre always juxtaposes philosophy with banality of life. He constructs his mise en scene, as in his writing style, by marrying non-fiction, fiction, and philosophy without sounding too obscure and cerebral. The book is not funny, but I find myself laughing at and relating with the scenes.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    Although I thought the people to be stupid in their dialouges and sometimes actions, they felt relatebable. I liked how there is basically no action curve or climax, only observation. And often I felt that my thought- and behaviourpatterns (and also a lot of peoples relationshipdynamics) have never been explained so well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    a good book, de botton makes perceptive comments on heterosexual relationships through the two main characters but due to this they are inevitably quite annoying which restricted my enjoyment of the book and actually made me quite frustrated. i did like the style though, and the philosophical aspects meshed nicely with the storyline so not bad

  25. 5 out of 5

    Degan Walters

    “Sex, shopping and the novel” as a tag line really does not do this book justice. It’s an amazing survey of the dips and peaks of a relationship and deals with both the emotion and philosophy therein. Highly recommend.

  26. 5 out of 5

    E.M. Cook

    A hyper-realistic treatment of interpersonal interactions, I would recommend this to young twenty-somethings or anyone relatively new to romantic relationships and the related, prevailing psychological theories of the day

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    one of the best novel of Botton

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alina Murar

    An incredibly complex story of a woman and her love affairs sprinkled with philosophers quotes, drawings and quizes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eugenia (Genie In A Book)

    A good read to follow 'Essays in Love' A good read to follow 'Essays in Love'

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gokalp Ertugrul

    Read it for the Second time after 15 years and enjoyed it as much!

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