Book Review by Dr Sonal Kalia
Edited by Varsha Kalyani
What is a prize? By consensus of various good dictionaries, it is something of great value, given for outstanding achievement. It is said that virtue is its own reward, so, how often do prizes motivate and affect people? That was the underlying question lingering in my mind when I looked at the book Prizes by Erich Segal. I was keen to get some insights through the plot.
I pride myself for the rewards I have won in my brief career; however, I do not remember them as sole motivators for my action towards a goal. The recognition of one’s hard work (more than one’s inherent talent or genius) feels great and encourages taking actions. But as per my experience no real achievements kick off with just the prize as a goal in mind. Accolades would follow when brilliance marries dedication towards a good cause. Often the journey is more rewarding than the end goal. The daily efforts towards a worthy goal can bring multitudes of awards, the most satisfying being the fulfillment of the goal of good rather than just the recognition for it. If you could bridge the wide gap between your dreams and reality, wouldn’t that be the real prize? If you are living a life on purpose and making daily strides towards what you really want, wouldn’t that be as valuable as a prize? What if, for someone the prize equals to the real goal? As an old saying goes, success without recognition is like a meal without salt – it satisfies your hunger but doesn’t taste good.
So, I read Erich Segal’s novel hoping to learn – how a great author portrays such questions and their answers in his story line. The plot traces the different lives of extraordinarily brilliant people whose lives are ultimately entwined by the paramount prize that they win and its platform. The sheer luminescence of these minds along with industriousness of their nature brings them together on a single platform to win accolades.
Isabel reminds me that age may not matter if one has the drive to excel and an indomitable will to persevere. Sandy reminds me that the man who tries relentlessly and trusts authority figures blindly during this journey may lose credit despite his hard work. So, in the world of research, no one can be trusted easily. It doesn’t belittle your work, but it takes the charm away when someone else gets adulation for it. Adam reminds me that if one loves what he/she is doing for greater, good laurels will follow in life, even if you never set eyes on any prize as your goal. His passion towards his patients and desire to do good drives him more than anything and that’s what true virtuosity is.
These characters have intricately exuded personal lives full of love, loss, infidelity or joys. It reiterated what I already knew that one has to succeed despite problems, and not in absence of problems. It also tells me how love and support make a person’s journey towards his/her goal more beautiful in multiple ways.
Human beings are amazingly fragile yet so profoundly strong at the same time – just what exactly brings out which emotion matters. You can be the keenest mind on the planet for a topic, but the ability to handle your personal trepidation also affects your future. Fulfilling relationships or lack thereof drive you and shape your projects as well. The passions of these researchers culminating in a beautiful award ceremony and personal happiness made it a good fictional read.
It did not touch a chord within me like Doctors by the same author or the way I grew attached to Marley & Me by John Grogan, but parts of it did measure up. I could definitely relate to moments in it because I know how good recognition feels, the satisfaction of doing good for a patient in need; and also how a hollow feeling engulfs you when your own contribution to your research gets less credit than it deserves.
Erich Segal in this plot has not totally explained the complex mindset and circumstances about winning awards. But he answers some pertinent questions about those who win awards. And he raises some more significant questions – Do people who take credit for others work feel guilty or remain smug?
I also realized that prizes feel good and often one can seek little prizes in daily life moments as well. A book that rejuvenates you or a perfume that invigorates you could add to the little joys that we seek. So, what is the hidden prize that I seek in reading a book? I feel that in a fictional book, if the story makes sense, and raises questions and answer them along the plot, I like it better than bizarre works like paper towns. Perhaps somewhere in the uncertainty that life brings, reading as an escape is more pleasurable if it ends in a meaningful, positive way. I realized that at times life doesn’t bring closure, coherence or joy in a predictable fashion, so I seek that in the fiction. Howsoever immature it may be, I have a right to choose the type of fiction that I adore and escape into. In those moments when I escape into a different world, I like the experience better if triumph follows failures, happiness follows struggles and love arrives after betrayals. This book brought that kinda satisfaction for me and so it felt like a truly prized possession like its title Prizes.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sonal is a medical professional & an avid reader who occasionally dabbles in writing too