Once in a while you come across a book which you can’t help but love. What makes it more surreal is the fact that you love it for all the irrational reasons. I’m sorry if I use the word irrational with elastic liberty; it’s the only word that comes to mind. You don’t love it for the writing; you don’t love it for the heartbreaking story and neither do you love it solely for the great characters. You love it because you cannot but help love it. You don’t need a reason more than acceptance that this I great book which is so apt a transformation from intangible emotions to tangible writing.
The Class is about members of Harvard of the year 1958 and the events which lead to their 25th reunion, in 1983. Among others, The Class is made up of Daniel Rossi, Theodore Lambros, George Keller, Jason Gilbert Jr. and Andrew Eliot. All of them, without a doubt, went on to become great in their set parameters. Some tried hard to achieve what they wanted, and succeeded; some were just chosen by events to do great things. I’ve always written a subjective review of a book and not bothered about getting bogged down with doing a totally objective view of the characters. But, while I would maintain my regular meandering habit, it’d be unfair if I don’t depart from the accepted protocol in this case. So, here goes…
A prodigy. Without his tool of trade he is nothing but a meek, red haired kid among others in the class of Harvard ’58, but give him his tool and he will enthrall you with his skills at it. His chosen tool? His piano. A “soft” option according to his father, being a musician that is, and coupled with the unending comparison of his older son he gives no importance to Danny’s chosen life. Of course, in due time, his fame and social climbing becomes the beacon which attracts his father to him and makes him accept Danny with his skills as a musician. But like a true story, cliched no doubt, his work and unethical social life alienates his once happy married life. We see towards the end that fame and money last, they definitely do, but not to the end when it matters. Danny is one of those who knows what he is good at and exploits his skills to no end!
Son of a working class Greek with shiny eyes reflected from the grand heights he is to achieve, which he HAS to achieve. Coming from a poor background he is unable to afford to live on the campus of Harvard and is, unlike many many others, not a jock and a big shot. He works nights and studies by day. He is a genius at his mother tongue helping students and faculty members alike. A perfectly humane personality with not an ounce of human castigation. He is a good, understanding person with a fairy tale like girl to whom he will obviously get married. He is meant to scale heights which even he hadn’t dreamt of. Ted goes on to do some really honourable work which is, sadly, punctuated with exactly that human error which he was never supposed to fall for.
Originally a Hungarian refugee who enters the United States with a great deal of agitation and guilt. He is granted a Harvard seat in the year 1958 and his character is written with a hurried pen. His character needed that dose of urgency. He is in a hurry to accept his new country and make his own. He is not proud of his background and want no body to know that he was a part of the Students uprising in Hungary. His love and loyalty to his adopted country is so fierce that he masters the language in a matter of months. His loyalty is returned twice over when he is accepted inside The White House as Kissinger’s man. His guilt, nevertheless, never leaves him. The guilt of leaving behind his childhood sweetheart while fleeing from Hungary eats him from the inside. He reacts in the most singular way though. Instead of becoming more patient and accepting he becomes crude and an unemotional wreck. The end of Keller is something that the reader would guess from a mile away. But, because it’s Segal who’s writing they would still be touched.
JASON GILBERT Jr.
A jock. A handsome stud. An athlete. A model son who would make any parent proud of rearing one. A looker who makes every girl go oooh and aaah. Now add a little bit of racism and a lot of Jewishness and you’ve got Jason Gilbert. He is denied admission to Yale, his first choice, due to his background. This happens even though his parents have converted to Unitarianism. In spite of being the super jock he starts dating this completely unglamorous dutch christian girl. A journey of a lifetime is not what awaits for Jason. He loses his girl and is transported to Israel where he realises that no matter how hard he will try to run away from his lineage and roots it will always come back to bit him. He gets into the Israel Army and is an important part of the squad that participates in the Six Day’s War and the Yom Kippur War. Jason never had it inside him that his life will take the turn that he did. All he wanted to do was live a life with his girl and be happy… But that was not to be. He spends the years of his life fighting for his own people.
My personal favourite. Andrew Eliot is a story that is told to us through the third person narrator of his diary entry. His diary is maintained by him regularly and is a sign of the man he is. A man burdened with legions and generations of great, influential and learned men. Andrew is dwarfed by the mere mention of The Eliots and what they did for Harvard and the country. It’s this unending internal conflict in living up to his name that he married his Dad’s friend’s daughter and takes up Investment banking. All gung-ho and pro Harvard types. His life is of no consequence to anyone, or so he thinks, and that he is not someone who is meant to go on to greatness defined by Power or Money. Eliot is a loving man, a little naive, but very loving. He is the only man who is understanding and respectful towards all the others and likes them for the right reasons. His life falls apart around him, one layer at a time, and the hopelessness he feels is underlined more by the fact that it is only him that sees it. I love the end of the guy. Truly love it.
That’s it folks. These are the lives that Segal has written about and which completely bowled me over. I have a habit of re-reading books I live and this one was no different. I liked his “Love story” too. It was the first romantic book which hit me. I’ve read around 2-3 more books by him but I still haven’t been able to bracket his writing style. All I know is that it speaks to me. Obviously, like I mentioned, it’s not the reason why I rate this book so high but it’s got it’s own charm. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading, not any specific genre loving readers. It’s lengthy, but not heavy. It teaches without being preachy.
I would easily give it a 4 on 5!