Erich Segal's Oliver's Story was the long awaited sequel to his 1970 masterpiece, Love Story. Published on March 7, 1977, Oliver's Story unfortunately did not receive the immediate fame gained by its predecessor, Love Story. The sequel focuses on the continued life of a still grieving Oliver Barret who mourns the death of his wife Jenny Cavilleri. He has a bad case of survivor guilt therefore tries a shrink and jogging. Then the gorgeous, athletic, smart, blonde Marcie Nash comes jogging around the Central Park Reservoir and into Oliver's life. Everything seems as though it is going to be wonderful until Oliver discovers that Marcie's department store, Binnendale, is built on the empire of sweatshops and employing cheap foreign labor. On discovering this, Oliver breaks all ties with Marcie while subliminally suggesting a "Buy American" plea. This avid turn against Marcie and the sweatshop labor is Oliver's recognition that he supports American made products and child labor laws.
The reviews for this novel range from outright praise to utter disappointment. Critics who praise Segal declare "that every reader of Love Story and every viewer of the film will enjoy Oliver's Story(Publisher's Weekly). Other critics view this novel as "on a par stylistically with Love Story the sequel, Oliver's Story, is suggested for storage where Love Story is still in popular demand" (Booklist Magazine). The New York Times Book Review novelist noted that within Oliver's Story: "Segal is able to keep the plot moving. He is a good enough storyteller that despite the dead language, the reader still wants to find out what happens to his characters." However, the majority of the reviews are less positive. Most critics doubt the quality of prose and efficiency within Oliver's Story. In a review from the March 6, 1977 New York Times Book Review, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt states that, Erich Segal's Love Story was a decent enough novel?the question then is, does its sequel, Oliver's Story, live up to it? I don't think so!" This negative review of the novel continues by stating that Oliver's Story lacks symmetry of plot, contrast of character type and an inconsistency in dialogue and prose. Gerald Clark of Time Magazine criticizes Oliver's Story in the harshest of manners by stating, "not that Love Story was so good-in any way. It is simply that the sequel is so wretched-in every way." Clark claims that the novel drags on and even the "lover of decent prose is miserable" while reading Oliver's Story. After reading negative review after negative review, one may question how such a mixed review novel ever reaches the top of the bestseller list. For between April 10th and April 24th 1977, Segal's Oliver's Story topped the New York Times best sellers list.
There can be three reasons for the popularity associated with this novel: the anticipation as a sequel to Love Story, the wide variety of age and gender which this novel is geared towards, and the focus of the economic boom in the late seventies and early eighties. The most obvious and logical reason for this novel's success lies in the fact it was a sequel to the best-selling masterpiece, Love Story. Everyone was curious as to what was going to happen to Oliver after Jenny's death. After enjoying Love Story, and the praise that it was renowned with, readers could not wait to experience Segal's Oliver's Story. Readers expected Segal to continue his highly intriguing prose, dialogue and style from Love Story directly into Oliver's Story. Unfortunately, the reader's expectations where meet short-for Segal was already handicapped by having done away with Jenny in the last novel. By no means does Marcie live up to the highly entertaining and involved lover that Jenny was for Oliver. The reader never becomes thoroughly interested in their relationship and does not care much whether or not Oliver works out with her. As a result, the success gained by Oliver's Story was short lived and quickly fell from the bestseller list only one month after crowing the top. For this to happen, one can conclude that Oliver's Story was originally successful due to it's anticipated continuation of the highly acclaimed Love Story yet once read, it did not meet that expectation. However, the book was still widely read because of its simple, appealing, young adult style. Since the book was geared toward a wide variety of readers, young and old, male and female, it still was read and enjoyed by millions. The straightforward, direct approach, through which Segal presents Oliver and Marcie's relationship encourages the readers, interest. Other best selling novels during the late seventies also focused on the ideal relationship between high-class women and men.
The public's new interest in high-class living is exemplified through Oliver's Story by the expensive cars, food, clothing, and overall extravagant lifestyle which Oliver and Marcie live. During the late seventies, the nation was going through a time of economic uplifting which eventually lead to the booming eighties. For Segal and other novelist of the late seventies it was a time to focus their attention on the high-class lifestyle. Through their novels, they were showing readers what effects an economic boom has on everyday life. Readers were fascinated by the lifestyle which Oliver and Marcie lived and were eager themselves to achieve that lifestyle through hard work and the eventual roaring eighties. All readers wanted to experience this and in turn see what they dreamed the future would bring. Some may even credit Segal for encouraging high-class lifestyle and the eventual economic boom of the early eighties. For by creating a novel, which exemplifies a wealthy lifestyle, Segal was allowing all readers to see how money can effect your living.
Although Erich Segal's Oliver's Story was by no means as successful and well received as Love Story, at one time it crowned our nations bestseller list. Most of its success can be credited to the fact that it was the sequel to Love Story. However, as described above, Oliver's Story also achieved popularity due to its focus on the new economic lifestyle of the late seventies and its gearing toward all audiences. One must praise Erich Segal for persevering through creating a sequel to Love Story and attempting to maintain the heralded success of his best-selling novel.