Love Story (novel)

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Love Story (Erich Segal novel) cover.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorErich Segal
Original titleLove Story
CountryUnited States
GenreRomance novel
PublisherHarper & Row (USA), Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Publication date
February 14, 1970
Media typeHardcover, paperback
Followed byOliver's Story 

Love Story is a 1970 romance novel by American writer Erich Segal. The book's origins lay in a screenplay that Segal wrote, and that was subsequently approved for production by Paramount Pictures. Paramount requested that Segal adapt the story into novel form as a preview of sorts for the film. The novel was released on February 14, 1970, Valentine's Day. Portions of the story originally appeared in The Ladies' Home Journal.[1][clarification needed] Love Story became the top-selling work of fiction for all of 1970 in the United States, and was translated into more than 20 languages.[2] The novel stayed for 41 weeks in The New York Times Best Seller list, reaching the top spot. A sequel, Oliver's Story, was published in 1977. A film adaptation was released on December 16, 1970.[3]


Love Story is romantic and funny, yet tragic. It is the tale of two college students whose love enables them to overcome the adversities they encounter in life: Oliver Barrett IV, a Harvard jock and heir to the Barrett fortune and legacy, and Jennifer Cavilleri, the quick-witted daughter of a Rhode Island baker. Oliver (Ollie) was expected to assume control of his father's business empire, while Jennifer (Jenny) was a music major studying at Radcliffe College and planning to study in Paris. From very different worlds, Oliver and Jenny are immediately attracted to each other and their love deepens. The story of Jenny and Ollie is a story of two young people who come from two separate worlds and are brought together in the unlikeliest of ways.

Upon graduation from college, the two decide to marry, against the wishes of Oliver's father, who promptly severs all ties with his son. Without financial support, the couple struggles to pay Oliver's way through Harvard's Law School, with Jenny working as a private school teacher. Graduating third in his class, Oliver gets several job offers and takes up a position at a respectable New York law firm. The couple move to New York City, excited to spend more time together, rather than working and studying. The pair decide to have a child. After Jenny fails to conceive, they consult a medical specialist, who after repeated tests, informs Oliver that Jenny is suffering from leukemia, making it clear that "she's dying".

As instructed by his doctor, Oliver attempts to live a normal life without telling Jenny of her condition. Jenny nevertheless discovers her ailment after confronting her doctor about it. With their days together numbered, Oliver is desperate and seeks financial relief from his father. Instead of telling his father what the money is truly for, Oliver misleads him. From her hospital bed, Jenny speaks with her father about funeral arrangements, and then asks for Oliver. She tells him to avoid blaming himself, and asks him to hold her tightly before she dies. When Mr. Barrett realizes that Jenny is ill and that his son borrowed the money for her, he immediately sets out for New York. By the time he reaches the hospital, Jenny has died. Mr. Barrett apologizes to his son, who replies with something Jenny had once told him: "Love means never having to say you're sorry..." and breaks down in his arms.


New York in 1971 stated that Jenny resembled the "myopic, athletic, brisk princess" Brenda Patimkin in Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus.[4] It is sometimes said that Al Gore falsely claimed that the plot is based on his life at Harvard. In fact, Al Gore mentioned, correctly, that he had read that the characters were based on him and his wife. In 1997, Segal confirmed Gore's account, explaining that he had been inaccurately quoted in the Nashville Tennessean and that "only the emotional family baggage of the romantic hero... was inspired by a young Al Gore. But it was Gore's Harvard roommate, Tommy Lee Jones, who inspired the half of the character that was a sensitive stud, a macho athlete with the heart of a poet". Erich Segal had met both Jones and Gore at Harvard in 1968, when he was there on sabbatical.[5]


The novel was an instant commercial success despite scathing reviews. It was nominated for a National Book Award, but withdrawn when the judges threatened to resign. William Styron, the head judge for fiction that year, called it "a banal book which simply doesn't qualify as literature" and suggested that even by being nominated it would have "demeaned" all the other novels under consideration.[6]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erich Segal. Love Story. (Harper & Row) 1970.
  2. ^ "The Love Story Saga".
  3. ^ "Love Story (1970)".
  4. ^ Baumgold, Julie (1971-03-22). "The Persistence of the Jewish American Princess". New York. pp. 25–31.
  5. ^ Henneberger, Melinda (14 December 1997). "Author of 'Love Story' Disputes a Gore Story". New York Times.
  6. ^ Schudel, Matt (January 20, 2010). "'Love Story' author Erich Segal dies at 72". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 10, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]