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Review: Love Story by Erich Segal

Hold up!

See that little date above?

This post was published years ago.

My opinions have changed over time: I think it's quite fun to keep old posts online so that you can see how that has happened. The downside is that there are posts on this site that express views that I now find offensive, or use language in ways I'd never dream of using it today.

I don't believe in airbrushing history, but I do believe that it's important to acknowledge the obvious: some of what I've written in the past has been crap. Some of it was offensive. Some of it was offensively bad. And there's may be some brass among the muck (you can make up your own mind on that).

Some of what I've presented as my own views has been me—wittingly or unwittingly—posturing without having considered all the facts. In a few years, I'll probably think the same about what I'm writing today, and I'm fine with that. Things change. People grow. Society moves forward.

The internet moves on too, which means there might be broken links or embedded content that fails to load. If you're unlucky, that might mean that this post makes no sense at all.

So please consider yourself duly warned: this post is an historical artefact. It's not an exposition of my current views nor a piece of 'content' than necessarily 'works'.

You may now read on... and in most cases, the post you're about to read is considerably shorter than this warning box, so brace for disappointment.

Love Story was published in 1970, and was one of the first mega-blockbuster books. It sold tens of millions of copies, and a large number of people appear to claim it as their favourite book of all time. It is actually a novelisation of a screenplay which, following the success of the book, was produced and performed extraordinarily well. I was born in 1985 – more than a little too late to appreciate the fuss. Yet given readers’ apparent enduring love of the book, though, I wanted to read it.

Love Story is a short book, running to fewer than 100 pages. It tells the story of the blossoming love between rich Harvard law student Oliver Barrett IV and poor Radcliffe music student Jenny Cavilleri, who dies at an awfully young age. That isn’t a spoiler: it is revealed in the first line of the book.

But I’m not sure that the headline “love story” is the most interesting: another felt more moving to me. The subplot follows Oliver’s changing relationship with his father. Segal’s own father died shortly before he wrote this novel, and perhaps this is the reason for this subplot being infused with such emotion.

Yet, despite this, the book felt a bit flat. The characters felt a little cardboard, with the shallow characterisation bluntly hammered home time and again, with little room for subtlety. The plot is stretches realism beyond breaking point in parts: the refusal of the doctor to tell Jennifer her own diagnosis, for example. And I found the dialogue throughout to be awkwardly stilted.

Despite all of its flaws, the book was still moving. But it felt like it was moving me in a sort of emotionally manipulative way, as though the mechanics were on show and I was being prodded in a direction, rather than moving me by engaging me on a deeper level. I’ve not seen the movie, but I believe it relies heavily on strings to generate emotion, and that’s sort of how the book feels too. It was moving, but not in an especially memorable or deeply affecting way.

So, I guess I enjoyed Love Story while I read it, but it was a little clunky. I’m not going to rush to read Segal’s sequel.


Love Story is available now from amazon.co.uk, in paperback and on Kindle.

This post was filed under: Book Reviews, .

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