Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 359
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.
Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1056
Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook is set in New Bern, North Carolina. As the story opens, the narrator, Noah Calhoun, is living in a nursing home.It is 1995, and he is eighty years old. He relates the routine of his day and how he feels. His hands are somewhat frozen because of debilitating arthritis. And he is always cold and very much feels his age.But every day, he shuffles down the hallway of the home and reads to many of the patients there. He has lived in the nursing home for three years and has made many friends. He makes it known that there is a special person living there, a woman who is often heard crying. He also reads to her, but what he reads comes from a journal that he has kept, one that will be revealed to the readers in the following chapter.
In Chapter 2, the story flashes back to 1946, when Noah was thirty-one.He has recently refurbished an old Southern plantation, one of the oldest and biggest houses in New Bern. He lives alone, except for his dog Clementine. Often, Noah spends his evenings sitting in a rocking chair, reading poetry. One of his favorite poets is Walt Whitman, author of Leaves of Grass. On evenings like this, a seventy-year-old African-American man named Gus, Noah’s neighbor and friend, frequently comes to visit. On one particular night, Gus tells Noah that he senses Noah is haunted by ghosts. Gus explains that the ghosts he refers to are unsettled memories from the past.
Though Noah lives alone and states that he has never been married, he does confess that he once was in love. And that love has indeed haunted his life. Noah met Allie Nelson when he was seventeen. It was the summer of 1932, and Allie was two years younger than Noah. Allie’s father was in New Bern on a job for a large tobacco company. Noah met Allie through his friends Fin and Sarah who were dating. Noah fell in love instantly. And Allie reciprocated his affections. They spent most of the summer together both of them losing their virginity. But at the end of the summer, Allie had to return to Raleigh with her parents. Her mother, Anne, disapproved of Allie’s the relationship with Noah because she believed that Noah was beneath her daughter’s social status. Allie’s parents were very rich. Noah’s father (his mother had died when he was a child) was not.
After Allie moved back to Raleigh, Noah sent her letters, one each month. Allie never responded. During the ensuing years, Noah went to college and later worked for a scrap-metal business, impressing his employer and owner of the company, Morris Goldman. But then World War II came, and Noah felt it was his duty to enlist. He was sent to Europe. A year after he returned, Noah’s father died. That was around the same time that Noah bought the old, rundown plantation. He and Allie, that summer fourteen years ago, had traipsed around the twelve-acre plot, exploring the old buildings and enjoying the creeks and the river that ran through the property. It was a time of dreams, and Noah had considered restoring the building even as a teen. As fortune would have it, Morris Goldman, the owner of the scrap-metal business where Noah had worked before going into the war, had been so impressed with Noah and the way he had helped him expand his business that he had included Noah in his will. When Goldman died, Noah inherited a large sum of money, $70,000, a huge endowment in the 1940s. Noah used the money to refurbish the plantation.
So when Noah returned to New Bern after the war, he bought the plantation and its twelve acres. Then he set to work restoring it. He did such a great job that a reporter from a Raleigh newspaper wrote an article about him with photographs of the place. In the meantime, Allie, who was three weeks away from being married to a rich lawyer named Lon Hammond, saw the newspaper article. Though she had not previously contacted Noah, she had thought about him a lot through the fourteen years that they had not seen one another. She had never received his letters, so she had no idea how he felt. His supposed lack of correspondence made her feel insecure about his feelings. Had he merely wanted to have sex with her, and after she had left, had he forgotten about her? Allie would learn later that her mother had confiscated the letters that Noah had sent. But nonetheless, upon reading the article about Noah and his house, Allie’s memories were stirred. She felt she had to confront him before she married another man.
Allie meets with Noah in New Bern. Her emotions are stirred to the point that she makes passionate love with him. Lon, in the meantime, becomes suspicious about Allie’s sudden absence and rounds up enough evidence to lead him to New Bern. Allie must make a choice between the two men. She claims to love both. In the end, she realizes that she loves Noah more.
The journal that Noah reads to the woman in the nursing home ends there. Readers learn that the woman is Allie, and she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, a disease that erases memories. The majority of the time, Allie talks to Noah as if he were a stranger. This crushes Noah’s heart.He still deeply loves the woman to whom he has been married for forty-nine years. But there are moments when Allie calls him by name, and Noah is filled with inspiration. Doctors cannot explain how Allie regains her memories, even for those short periods of time. The nurses, seem to know, however. They say it is because Noah and Allie are so much in love.
The story ends with Noah sneaking into Allie’s room one night. This is against the nursing home rules. It is during the night that Allie’s mental condition is at its worse. Allie becomes confused and hallucinates. The hallucinations make her scream out in terror. But this particular night, as Noah slips into her bed, Allie whispers his name. They kiss passionately, almost as if everything were back to normal.