It should come as no surprise that the subject of this book is of course, love. More specifically, Alberoni deals with those all-too-brief and utterly captivating moments when one first falls in love. He attempts to unlock all the rather bizarre and, sometimes, completely diotic, forces that drive our behaviour in this frenzied state.
For those lucky enough to be experiencing the first signs of true love, I doubt that this book will do the sensations they experience any justice, simply because words are no match for the real thing. For the rest of us (sigh), there is some element of truth in Alberoni’s analytical minefield.
The book transcends any real field that one may attempt to box it into. Instead, it incorporates psychology, sociology, science, philosophy, religion and plain and simple opinion. Written in poetic (though sometimes dreary) language, it transports the reader through time and place and asks questions not regularly given the time of day.
Falling in love, according to the author, is a universal experience. To Alberoni, it is the meeting not just of souls, but of minds as well. The book is particularly optimistic (and I mean that as a compliment) in its observances about human potential and the possibilities, within us all, to experience love, should we allow ourselves the opportunity to do so.
The book applies its theory to adolescent and adult, to man and to woman and to homosexual and heterosexual alike. Falling in love, according to the author, happens as the result of a basic feeling of inadequacy, shame and dissatisfaction with one’s existence. This dissatisfaction is, then, what leads one to seek out love in a sincere fashion, unlike many who wish to find love but are not willing to surrender themselves to that fundamental need to improve their condition. So depression and low self-esteem are, indeed, good for something. How comforting. It is a feeling of insecurity, then, that Alberoni sees as a prerequisite to falling in love. He uses the example of teenagers and their desperate desire for acceptance as a means of illustrating how this desire is translated into the “ignition state” of falling in love. For most of us, adolescence brings with it the most turbulent (read nerve-wracking) and exciting moments in our lives. During this period, we find ourselves at our most insecure and, yet, we feel the first and most frequent flutters of love. To Alberoni, this is no coincidence.
The author extracts from history the nature and structure of group dynamics throughout the book. He likens the couple to the most basic form of a group. The influence of our partners may thus be the influence of us forming an identity as part of the couple, sacrificing (wilfully or not) our individuality and becoming one with the other member of this rudimentary grouping.
Alberoni maintains that this fusion is then countered by the desire within each of us for individuality and independence, resulting in conflict. Sound familiar? This conflict, though, is not necessarily a negative. Instead, it creates that essential and most human of emotions, passion. What would love be without passion? Essentially, then, where would one find passion if there was no conflict? I know, I never thought of it that way either.
So what does it mean to fall in love? What happens to us? Where does it take us and, more importantly, how do we get there? Alberoni’s book is more a study than a guide. Falling in love seems like the easy bit. What so many of us need is a book (or a trick of some sorts, perhaps a magic potion even) on how to find it. In this case, the answer, supposedly, lies in the human drive to better one’s existence, which sounds like a lot of hard work. In love then, as in life, there seem to be no shortcuts. Damn. “Falling in Love” is a unique and stimulating piece of literature. Alberoni, with his background in sociology, provides insight and, importantly, hope. He is alarmingly honest, ensuring that the audience understands the pitfalls of love and the potential for failure. Romantics, though, will not be disappointed either. I leave you with a little trinket of wisdom from the book, “Life is like riding in a canoe…We don’t make the waves and we can’t change them…We manage to stay afloat…until we finally arrive back at shore…happy to have made it back.”