A tender relationship between a father, a son who he did not know existed, and its impact on his marriage and life basically forms the crux of the bestselling novel “Man, Woman, and Child”. This novel was written by popular American novelist Erich Segal. It was published on 1st August 1970 which eventually became a national bestseller.
A drama heavy plot:
The basic plot of the novel revolves around the life of a happily married American couple Robert and Sheila Beckwith and, their daughter’s Jessica and Paula. It is a phone call from an acquaintance in France informing Robert about a presence of a son born due to an affair he had in France with a woman named Nicole that unfortunately disrupts his family life. It also during this call that he is informed that Nicole has passed away and that his son Jean Claude has no one to look after him.
Although, initially it is Sheila herself who asks Robert to bring his son home. Yet over a period of time she begins to have second thoughts over allowing Jean Claude to have entered her family. She feels so upset over her husband’s infidelity and the presence of this child. That she herself contemplates having an affair with an author called Gavin that she has been working with. Unfortunately the truth of Jean Claude’s identity is also revealed to both Jessica and Paula leading to further crisis within the family. The rest of novel deals with how the family together eventually overcomes this rather difficult circumstances and face the situation with a lot of dignity. With the theme of this novel being infidelity and its impact on family, the plot is certainly heavily drama driven.
Narrative, characters, and the language:
The narrative used by the novelist is extremely simplistic and is direct. The fact that the narrative is nonlinear and uses flashback as a tool to take the story forward adds a new dimension to the novel. All the characters in this novel are fascinating. So be it Robert and Sheila or the daughters Jessie and Paula they are basically characters driven by their emotions a common trait in many of Segal’s novels. So for those readers who abhor sentimentality this novel is certainly not meant for them. The language used is not only fluid but is also quite easy for a reader to understand.
Moral of the story:
There are certain moments in life when a human due to various reasons succumbs to temptations without ever realizing the consequences. This novel addresses this issue of human failing beautifully. It also highlights the fact that problems within a family can only be solved by facing them and not by running away from them.
So with this novel having achieved cult status over the years. One can only hope that this novel continues to create magic in the minds of readers for years to come.
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