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The Notebook ()


Amazon.com Top 100 Books of the Millenium (88)

****CAUTION : this review contains spoilers*****

It was books like this that killed Emma Bovary, and would that she had taken them all with her to her grave.  An elderly man reads to an elderly woman every day from an aged notebook that he carries around with him.  Within its pages is told the story of Noah Taylor Calhoun, a young Southerner, and of his great teenage passion for Allison Nelson.  Alas, their affair came a cropper because she was of higher social station then him.  But in the intervening years, during which he has sought his fortune in the North and fought in WWII, both have been unable to completely commit their hearts to others, because of the bond that still exists between them.  But now, as she is about to marry an upper crust lawyer, Allison journeys to Noah's farm, where he has essentially secluded himself, to see what remains of the desire they once shared.

Well, guess what ?  A fair bit remains.  And as the newly reunited lovers reminisce and feel out the situation, so to speak, Allison's mother and her fiancé come rushing into town to see just what she's getting herself into.  Will Allison choose Noah or the lawyer, and which one is the old man who's reading her the notebook ?

For one incredibly brief moment, I actually entertained the idea that Nicholas Sparks was going to throw us a curve and that it would turn out that the lawyer and Allison had shared fifty years of loving marriage, such that he remained so devoted that he could even read to her about these painful memories, that the message of the book would be that passion is all well and good, and exciting enough when you are young and stupid, but that it is a transitory and relatively meaningless thing, while love endures, and genuine love lasts for a lifetime.  There's even a line that raises the possibility, when Allison acknowledges to herself that she doesn't actually love Noah, but is instead in love with the youthful lust they once had for one another.  But Sparks tips his hand when she recalls the words her mother used to get her to break off with Noah all those years ago :

    [S]ometimes, our future is dictated by what we are, as opposed to what we want.

Clearly this sentiment is intended to be abhorrent to us.  Contrast it with the admonition she receives from Noah :

    You can't live your life for other people.  You've got to do what's right for you, even if it hurts
    some people you love.

Ah, such is the monstrously selfish ethos of the romantic : we each only have one great love; it's rarely the person we're with at the moment; but when the "right" person comes along, all boorish behavior on our parts is to be excused; seize the moment--the consequences be damned; gimme, gimme, gimme, I want, I want...

In the perfect, because utterly shallow, conclusion to the book, Allison, who any idiot has figured out by now has Alzheimer's, is returned briefly and miraculously to her right mind by the magic of the story and recognizes Noah--who even the most hopeful skeptic, like me, has grudgingly accepted must be the old man--just long enough for him to jump her bones.  How can you not be moved by the image of this doting lover perched over his brain-addled wife, praying for one last chance to make the monster with two backs?  Now that's what I call love!

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (D)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of The Notebook
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : Nicholas Sparks "A Walk To Remember"  (Book Chat)
    -INTERVIEW :  with Nicholas Sparks (Book Reporter,  October 29, 1999)
    -INTERVIEW : with Nicholas Sparks (Literary Guild)
    -PROFILE : Nicholas Sparks says family inspires his 'love stories' (FRITZ LANHAM, Houston Chronicle)
    -PROFILE : A 'Notebook' on ageless passion (Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY)
    -PROFILE : Nicholas Sparks gets happy about bestseller prestige (Jamie Kornegay, October 30, 1996,  The Daily Mississippian)
    -SEXIEST MAN ALIVE : Nicholas Sparks (People Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of The Notebook (Kelly Milner Halls, Book Reporter)
    -REVIEW : of The Notebook (Lizzy Graham, Pure Fiction)
    -REVIEW : of The Notebook (The Romance Reader)
    -REVIEW : of Message in a Bottle (Sarah Harrison Smith, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Message in a Bottle (Tom Faucett , CNN)
    -REVIEW : of Message in a Bottle (Munich Found)

FILMS :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Nicholas Sparks (IMDB.com)

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