Nicholas Sparks's novel The Notebook (1996) was on the New York Times best-seller list for fifty-six weeks. Although many reviewers panned the book, calling it overly sentimental, the novel hit a nerve with readers. Not since novels like Erich Segal’s Love Story (1970), Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County (1992), or Nicholas Evans’s The Horse Whisperer (1995) have readers rushed to buy a book that comes with the publisher's warning to also buy a pack of tissues. This book, readers are forewarned, is a tear-jerker.
Sparks wrote two novels prior to The Notebook, neither of them worthy of sending out to a publisher. While he wrote his third novel, which would become The Notebook, he was selling pharmaceuticals. He had also been recently married. When he learned that his wife's grandparents could not attend his wedding due to medical complications, he drove his wife to their home the day after the wedding. Sparks and his new bride had re-dressed themselves in their wedding outfits. While he sat through the video of his wedding, he watched his wife's grandparents and decided that he needed to write a story—one that would explore a love between two people that lasted half a century.
That was how The Notebook was born. In it, Sparks tells the story of Noah and Allie, who meet in their teens and fall madly in love. They are separated, though, for fourteen years. Noah was called to the second world war. Allie tried to please her parents and became engaged to a young lawyer with social standing. But nothing could come between them, or so Noah hoped. Allie did return to him, and they spent 49 years in marital bliss, but not without challenges. In the end, they faced the biggest challenge of all. Allie was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which eventually erased all her memories. Most painful of all was that she could not remember who Noah was.
The Notebook proved to be a commercial success, despite being poorly received by critics. Readers loved the love story. Sparks would go on to write a dozen more novels. Seven, including The Notebook, have been adapted to film.