Love Story

Author: Erich Segal

Genre: Fiction

What explains the immense popularity of this little book? Written in 1970, it became the biggest best-seller of that year. A movie was made which also became the biggest block buster of that year and made Ryan O’Neal a star. By now, more than 20 million copies have been sold and the book translated in more than 35 languages. My entire generation used the book’s catchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Love story is a short and sweet story about love relationship between two Ivy league students from completely different backgrounds and their hardships. It is classic “rich boy meets poor girl and marries her against his family’s wishes”. The story starts with a little background of Oliver Barret IV who is a rich Harvard student and Jenny Cavilleri who is a Radcliffe music major. They are complete opposites of each other and have nothing in common. After couple of dates together where they insult each other, they fall in love eventually. Oliver doesn’t have a cordial relationship with his rich father. On the other hand, Jenny’s father Phil is a widower and lives for his daughter. Later Jenny’s dream of studying music in Paris comes true but for the sake of her relationship with Oliver she refuses to accept the offer.

Oliver and Jenny get married with Jenny’s father’s permission. They have only Jenny’s earnings to make their life as Oliver has to complete his Law school. They start out in a very rough patch – renting a low cost apartment and living a modest life. But still were happy with each other. After he completes his graduation, he gets a job offer at a reputed organisation and they then move to a luxurious apartment.

They start trying to conceive a baby but soon realize that Jenny has cancer (leukaemia) and doesn’t have much time left. To spend rest of the time with Jenny, Oliver resigns from his job and starts spending quality time with Jenny. Soon Oliver realises that he has no means to pay for the hospital bills. Without telling the reason for his demand, he asks his father a favour and borrows $5000 (his father writes a cheque without asking any questions). Jenny doesn’t tell anyone about her pain but knows it is like “falling off a cliff in slow motion.”

Eventually, the day comes when Jenny collapses and dies in Oliver’s arms. Oliver’s father, on knowing about Jenny’s condition, rushes to the hospital to be with his son. Both of them run into each other and Oliver collapses in his father’s arms. His father apologizes and Oliver utters the famous words “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

Critics have complained that this is a rather simple story. Due to its popularity, it was nominated for US National Book Award, but the entire jury threatened to resign and got it removed, saying, “It is a banal book which simply doesn’t qualify as literature”.

Erich Segal, the author, was a Harvard alum and Yale Professor. He admits that perhaps that – simplicity and emotions – was the reason of its popularity: “It’s awfully short. It’s unabashedly sentimental. But before the end I cried and cried and cried”. And the honest truth is that I cried too after reading the book!

Why Should You Read this book: Love Story is one of the most read romantic classics of all time. It was written way back in 1970 but still comes across as a very fresh and genuine story. The novel beautifully captures two very strong emotions: clean romance and Oliver’s estranged relationship with his father.

Goodreads Link: Love Story (Love Story, #1) by Erich Segal | Goodreads