For some reason, a bunch of books I’ve read recently has been about love. So in an attempt to hack off a chunk of the reading backlog, this post will tackle four books that revolve around this theme, namely: Aspects of Love by David Garnett; Oliver’s Story by Erich Segal; Forever by Judy Blume; and Shakespeare in Love: The Love Poetry of William Shakespeare (books # 91-94 of 2009).
Aspects of Love is the novella on which the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same title is based. I’ve never seen the musical, but I remember reading about it when it was staged by a local production here in the Philippines, so I was curious about the book.
Aspects of Love deals with different forms of love, involving the web of relationships that involve the sultry actress Rose Vibert; her young admirer Alexis Dillingham; his uncle, the wealthy gentleman George Dillingham; George’s mistress, the fiery artist Giuletta Trappani; and Rose and George’s daughter, Jenny.
It was a quick read for me, but I wasn’t fully invested in it because I felt that it was merely narrating a story and didn’t really break the surface of what the characters were supposedly feeling. It was hard to empathize with the characters because the brevity of the novella (which spans 17 years) didn’t really give you much to work with, and it really reads as if it were meant for another medium, such as the stage, or even film.
I imagine it works better as a musical, as the characters can break out into song and act out their feelings. My officemates seem to love it though, as the book is currently making the rounds at work.
I actually read Erich Segal’s Oliver’s Story in high school after I read Love Story (and all the other Erich Segal books), but as that was a decade ago, I really didn’t remember much about it anymore. So when my book club Flips Flipping Pages read Love Story in February, I wanted to read Oliver’s Story too, so I mooched a copy, and luckily I found one in Tina’s inventory.
Basically, Oliver’s Story is about how Oliver gets back into the game after Jenny’s death in Love Story. He gets into a relationship with a woman who has more in common with him than Jenny ever did, and in the end, it doesn’t work out, but I think Oliver is well on his way to recovery, and moves on to a new chapter in his life.
What took me by surprise is how much I liked Oliver’s Story over Love Story.
While Love Story is obviously the great tragedy, I like Oliver’s Story because it’s quiet and unassuming, making it even sadder than the first book, without the plot acrobatics. Oliver has grown up a lot, and I like that this book delves deeper into his character, making him more lovable this time around. And while Oliver doesn’t get a happy ending, he does build a better relationship with his family, and comes to terms with his identity as a Barrett.
There is also a film version of this book, still starring Ryan O’ Neal, with Candice Bergen as Marcie. It was a flop, apparently, and I haven’t seen it, but I think it’s mainly because people have practically enshrined Love Story that they were less open to the sequel.
Next in this series is another book I’ve always wanted to read, Forever by Judy Blume. I’m a big Judy Blume fan, and this is one of the few books she’s written that I haven’t read, and I’m glad I finally did.
Forever is about a young couple, seventeen-year olds Katherine and Michael, who fall in love and seal it “forever” by having sex. Published in 1975, it is considered the first young adult novel that deals with sexuality, and is one of the most challenged books of all time, and has fascinatingly ended up being read secretly and buried deep in many teenagers’ underwear drawers for decades now.
The story is simple and more mature than her other young adult novels, but it drives a very clear message about sexual responsibility, and I wish every high school library has a copy in stock
I’ve been reading Judy Blume since I was in third grade, and I’ve always liked her honesty in dealing with teenage issues, an honesty that is rare in young adult novels even to this day. Aside from Forever, Blume has written young adult novels that deal with about other difficult issues. Among my favorites are Tiger Eyes, which deals with grief and anti-intellectualism; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, which tackles menstruation and religious right; and Just as Long as We’re Together, which deals with weight, puberty, and divorce.
She has also tackled racism in Iggie’s House; divorce in It’s Not the End of the World; weight and bullying in Blubber; and masturbation in Deenie and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Judy Blume is one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century, with five books in the American Library Association’s 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990 to 2000, but it hasn’t stopped her from winning over ninety literary awards and selling over 80 million books worldwide.
On censorship, Judy Blume makes a statement that I applaud: “It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”
Personally, Judy Blume was a big part of my adolescence, and I love how her novels continue to be published today, a triumph over the censorship her work has attracted, and a testimony to the countless young readers she has made an impact on.
Finally, the last book in this series is Shakespeare in Love: The Love Poetry of William Shakespeare. I’m not a big fan of movie covers, but I loved Shakespeare in Love, and in this book the beautiful love poems are interspersed with sepia images from the film.
I got it from a roving Books and Mags sale for only P50, and it includes lines from Shakespeare’s plays (Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing) and some of his sonnets, including my favorites #18 (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?) and #116 (Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments).
It’s a beautiful book and makes a great companion to the book of Shakespeare’s Soliloquies I got earlier this year.
Phew. That cuts the review backlog in half, hopefully I’ll catch up on it this weekend. I’ve been so busy and I’m getting busier so there’s a dip in my reading ratio, but hopefully I can still keep my targets for the end of the year.
My copies: Aspects of Love, trade paperback, P40 at Book Sale; Oliver’s Story mass market paperback and Forever, trade paperback, mooched from Tina; and Shakespeare in Love: The Love Poetry of William Shakespeare, trade paperback, P50 at Books and Mags
My ratings: Aspects of Love 2/5 stars; Oliver’s Story 4.5/5 stars; Forever 4/5 stars; and Shakespeare in Love: The Love Poetry of William Shakespeare 5/5 stars
*te quiero photo from sxc.hu