“Remember the Roses” is a magnificent love story and one of my all time favourite short story with a touch of romance, along with that excellent Erich Segal classic: “Love Story”. I have read its sequel too… “Oliver’s Story”… but it does not come close to “Love Story”… my personal opinion, entirely.
Not just a story – “Love Story” is an experience. It shows us the amazing power of love. This 120 page short novel made me laugh many times during the reading, and when I finished it, I had tears in my eyes. This book is a work of art, a masterpiece of literature… it has not lost its power to move its readers. The first Sentence: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. The Beatles. And me.” That first line summarizes this phenomenal bestseller and enduring classic. There is also the memorable line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. Spoken twice in this novel/book, once by Jennifer when Oliver is about to apologize to her for his anger. The second time, said by Oliver… to his father when Mr. Barrett (his father) says, “I’m sorry” after hearing of Jennifer’s death… at the hospital.
The storyline: “Love Story” is romantic and funny, yet a tragic story, that nearly 40 years ago had an entire generation in love and in tears… and still do. It is the story of 2 young college grads, whose love was stronger then any of the tests life threw at them. Oliver Barrett IV: a Harvard jock and a (very) rich scion or heir to the Barrett fortune and legacy. Jennifer Cavilleri: a working-class, quick-witted daughter of a Cranston, Rhode Island baker, with not much money, but lots of love. Oliver (Ollie) was expected to follow in his father’s huge footsteps, while Jennifer (Jenny), a music major studying at Radcliffe College was to go on and study in Paris. Both come from very different worlds… opposites in nearly every way. But when they met, Oliver and Jenny immediately attract… the sparks flew, and we get involved with them as their love grows deep and strong. The story of Jenny and Ollie is a realistic story of two young people who come from two separate worlds and are joined together in the most unlikely of ways.
Upon graduation from college, the two decide to marry against the wishes of Oliver’s father, who thereupon severs all ties with his son. Without his father’s financial support, the couple struggles to pay Oliver’s way through Harvard 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. Jenny promises to follow Oliver anywhere on the East Coast. The couple moves to New York City, excited to spend more time together… rather than in working and studying… as it was previously. With Oliver’s new income, the pair of 24-year-olds decide to have a child. It is from then onwards, that there are several unexpected twists and turns… that make us smile and breaks our heart too. After failing (i.e., after Jenny fails to conceive), they consult a medical specialist, who after repeated tests, informs Oliver that Jenny is ill and will soon die. Oliver then tries again. While this is not stated explicitly, Jenny appears to be suffering from leukemia.
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 her recent illness. With their days together numbered, Jenny begins (a costly) cancer therapy, and Oliver soon becomes unable to afford the multiplying hospital expenses. Desperate, he 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 embrace 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 is dead. Mr. Barrett apologizes to his son, who replies with something Jenny had once told him: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”… before breaking down in his arms.
Jenny’s character wins your heart as she unsuccessfully tries to thaw the relations between Oliver and his father, the way she spurs Oliver on (in law school studies, his hockey games) and so many more moments. The story is unique because of its many beautiful moments like Oliver’s marriage proposal, Jenny’s simplicity in thoughts, their supposedly do-it-yourself-wedding, etc. Jenny’s final words are a simple, “Thanks, Ollie”. Although the reader knows beforehand that Jenny is going to die, you somehow get so involved in the plot that you don’t want her to leave Ollie… ever. The ending of the book is so simple and stark that many, including myself have had to reread the chapter to enforce the ending of the story. This story will provide imagery and wisdom, through the lessons of the characters, for many hours of inner contemplation.
There is a “Gift of the Magi” moment in this story: Oliver turns his back on his family and fortune to marry Jenny. Jenny gives up her dreams of Paris and being a musician. But to each other, there is nothing as important as the other in their lives. When life throws them a tragic turn, they find solace in each other arms, and the reader cannot help but feel their pain and their deep love as well. Here is a love that will linger in your heart now and forever.
Details of the book: Love Story: Erich Segal, pp 144, Paperback, Harper Paperbacks, ISBN: 9780060748098.
Photograph: The cover of Erich Segal’s classic “Love Story”. Pic courtesy link.