Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Love Story by Erich Segal

Title: Love Story
Author: Erich Segal
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: 2005
Pages: 144

Rating: 3 out of 10 stars

Love Story is about a young, rich college jock attending Harvard University. He meets a pretty Radcliffe music student, Jenny, in the library one day, and develops a deep attraction for her despite her temper and continuous snide remarks - all aimed at him. The two fall in love, and after a rather boring proposal, they agree to get married.

The plot was not original or surprising, but it wasn't awful. And thank god it wasn't too sappy. At times, I even enjoyed the writing.
His dry, lightly humorous style fit the story well. Refreshingly, Oliver and Jenny's relationship is certainly not the usual star-crossed Hollywood romance. I liked that about the book. Jenny was not described as some sort of goddess descended from heaven; she was simply an ordinary, pretty girl who worked in a library. The mock "romantic" scenes are where Jenny and Oliver's dialogue consists mainly of insults and jibes (most playful or flirtatious, but some serious). It got annoying, but at least it's better than flowery, purple prose.
Don't expect this book to really contain any heavy romance - there is almost none. Yes, it is obvious that the characters care deeply for each other. But no one is swept off their feet. Even Oliver's proposal is the most un-romantic one that I have ever heard.

Jenny was a good character. Though her lover is the one attending Harvard, she seems a level above him on the intelligence scale, and he is always losing battles and arguments with her because he can't keep up with her comebacks. She is snippy and sharp, but likable.
Oliver is one of those rich prep boys who has a roman numeral after his name. His father has entire buildings at Harvard named after him, and lives in a multi-million dollar home complete with servants who insist on calling Oliver "Master." However, Oliver's attitude toward his elitist upbringing is that he never asked for it. An interesting side to his relationship with Jenny is that a part of why he loves her is that she is poor, and thus disapproved of by his family. She is an outlet for his rebellion.
Oliver's father is a minor character, but I felt sympathetic for him even when our main character was not. I saw him as a strong, accomplished man who wanted the best for his son. His only flaw is that he more than a bit of a snob, and this has caused Oliver to become embittered against him. But surely it isn't as bad as he insists?

The thing that I did not enjoy about this book can be viewed as minor or colossal, depending on what type of book you wanted this one to be.

First of all, (spoiler alert) Oliver does not seem very surprised when the doctor breaks to him the awful news: Jenny has cancer, and does not have very long to live. I would expect at least some amount of sorrow here. However, we only see Oliver feeling short of time. For example, he is desperate to take Jenny to fancy dinners and go out and do things, or give her a trip to Paris. But besides this, we are left in the dark as to what other feelings he is going through.
Also, Oliver does not tell Jenny that she is sick for awhile. The exact reason for this is not given. How selfish! I was shocked by this, and couldn't like Oliver after that.

And lastly, I didn't feel as if Oliver and Jenny's relationship seemed deep enough. Though there is not necessarily need for passionate exclamations of undying love and dramatic swooning, the two main characters here often seemed like mere best friends, or even brother and sister at times. I found myself thinking that they shouldn't have gotten married, because their relationship seemed to characterize an obsessive fling rather than a grounded, solid, lifelong love.

And so, at the tragic ending of the book, meant to be a tear jerker, I was unmoved. Oliver himself seemed sad, yes, but not devastated.