What can you say about a 131 page long book published on the valentine’s day of 1970? That it is present on all bookshelves of Hindi movies that are love stories. That it has one of the most famous lines of all, and I will get to it. That it reached a cult status in the hallows of love stories.
Erich Segal’s book is a simple read. Quick paced straightforward story telling. I think what appeals to the reader is that fact that it could have been your story or mine. Hopefully not, but there is nothing stopping it from being a story of a person we might chance upon.
“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach? The Beatles? And me?”
The quote is not a spoiler. It is the first line of the novel. The very first line that tells you what is to come. Sad endings always seem to make tragic legends which is why this book isn’t one of my absolute favourites, but I still thought it would be fun to write about. And because of the cliche of an unhappy ending, plus the need for tissues, this book will be getting a slightly low rating from me.
Oliver Barrett, with his troubled relationship with his father, is a Howard law school student. Popular, rich and sophisticated. He meets Jenny Cavalleri, a music major, from Radcliffe. Jenny is smart, sassy and direct. She hails from a life far removed from his, but that hardly matters as she literally takes his breath away.
“What the hell makes you smart?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t go for coffee with you.”
“Listen – I wouldn’t ask you.”
“That,” she replied, “is what makes you stupid.”
I have it on good authority that the book manages to capture the way of life of that time quite perfectly. The romance is fresh and fun. The setting young. They fall in love. The class difference worries their parents, but the young lovers throw wind to the caution. We follow them as they work hard to make ends meet. Follow their ambitions while following their hearts. Their life together will be short, but remains sweet.
An added depth to story comes from the clash between the hero and his father. He is estranged from his family, refusing to let traditions and status burden him down. In Jenny he finds a reason and motivation to break those shackles of hailing from illustrious ancestors. In our hearts however, we always care for love from our parents and their acceptance; Oliver is no different. Life gets tricky at times and this books explores a lot of it.
When Jenny goes against Oliver’s wishes the young couple have a bad fight. Do you remember how it felt to fight for the very first time with your sweetheart? How heavy grew your heart? How lonely and silent the world turned? It is in one such moment that the famous lines were spoken. Not by a brilliant philosopher, not by someone old and wise, not by Salman Khan. A young girl in love imparts the truest of wisdom.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
It’s not really about never uttering the word. It is a fact that when you love there will be times you will get hurt. And love gives the strength needed to forgive and forget.
Starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal the movie based on this novel has quite a cult following of it’s own. You must surely have heard the Oscar winning theme song by Francis Lai. It was to be a instrumental piece on the piano, but timeless words were later added on “Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a love can be?“
And if the end makes you weep, Erich Segal wrote a sequel to this tale, Oliver’s Story. Not as popular, but perhaps a sequel will bring closure if you are unhappy with the end. If not, then a number of Erich Segal’s other books are great reads too. Thicker in size, novels like The Class and Doctors track the journey of their protagnonists across the years of their complicated lives. Get ready to get swept into the world of Cambridge, Oxford and other colleges during the mid 1900’s.
Maybe, you would still like to give Love Story a read or a re-read, to find out what the fuss is all about? Or perhaps you can carry the book with you, to catch the eye of that handsome stranger, and find your own love story?
Picture credit Google.