Love Story: Plotline without characters

Erich Segal’s Love Story is what book jacket blurb writers describe as “a slender novel.”

The story is narrated by Oliver Barrett IV, a high IQ, prep-schooled, WASP rich kid who is a pre-law student at Harvard.

Checking out a book at the Radcliffe library, he checks out the girl at the desk, Jennifer Cavilleri, a music major from Cranston, Rhode Island, which, in Oliver’s family’s world is the wrong side of Boston.

The pair exchange insults and fall madly into bed.

Oliver splits with his all-too-perfect father over his decision to marry Jennifer.

Oliver Barrett III will not pay Oliver’s law school tuition.

The couple scrounge to put Oliver through law school.

He makes the Law Review, graduates third in his class, and gets a good job.

Then they find out Jen has leukemia.

I’ve not seen Love Story the movie, but it would almost have to be better than the book.

Oliver is a self-absorbed, over-age adolescent. There’s nothing in the novel to account for his rocky relationship with his father, which is the pivot on which the story turns.

Segal’s novel was ideally suited for the movies: It’s really just a plot line lacking characters to bring it to life.

Reviewer’s note: I learned after writing this review that Paramount had already approved Love Story for production when they asked Segal to turn the script into a novel as a marketing tool. Released on Valentine’s Day in 1970, it stayed 41 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Love Story by Erich Segal
Harper & Row, 1970; 131 p.
My grade: C+.

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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