This is a love story, plain and simple. You'll either be moved or be annoyed depending on your opinion of said love story.
The Notebook opens in a rest home. An elderly resident is telling us his story. He spends his days visiting a woman that often does not remember him. Each morning, he enters her room with a notebook containing memories of his life and love. He hopes that sharing these past events will jog her memory, but it is not to be. Yet, he tries each day and does not give up.
The second scene of the book takes place in October of 1946. Noah Calhoun has returned from the war and purchased his dream house in New Bern. He came into a windfall, bought the 1772 house, and restored it in an attempt to forget his past. We find out that his past includes a long lost love. This lady was his first and only love and she went away when they were teenagers. He has never forgotten her.
The Notebook then flashes back to Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson meeting and falling in love in the summer of 1935. Fifteen year-old Allie is visiting North Carolina. She is introduced to seventeen year-old Noah and likes him immediately. They spend the summer together sharing everything including their first sexual experiences. By the end of the season, it is clear that these two are in love and meant for each other.
However, Allie returns home and loses touch with Noah. Her parents have implied that Noah is not right for their daughter because he is of a different class. Noah writes to Allie often, but his letters go unanswered. He moves on with his life as best he can by enlisting in the service and going to war.
Let's fast forward now to 1946. Noah is living in and restoring this big house all alone. Allie is 29 and engaged to a successful lawyer. She reads an article about Noah in the paper and decides that she must see him one last time. She tells her family that she is taking a trip to shop for antiques and heads to New Bern.
Once she meets Noah face to face again, it is clear that the passion they shared so long ago is still there. They spend two wonderful evenings together sharing magical experiences. However, Allie must soon return to her other life and the man she is about to marry. Will Allie return home to a safe, comfortable life? Will she leave Noah a second time? Or will she stay in New Bern, where her heart belongs?
The last quarter of the book involves an elderly couple and their undying love. It is the couple in the rest home to which I was referring earlier. The woman has Alzheimer's disease and often forgets the life she shared with this other man. He doesn't give up hope and tries to give her back her memory each day. The doctors and nurses are stunned and touched. This man's undying faith sometimes fools the disease, and his love gets her memory back once in a while. Those moments they share are priceless and the author describes them well.
Are these two people Noah and Allie or another couple? Did Allie leave? Did she find her way back? I'll never tell.
I didn't love The Notebook. I liked The Notebook. It didn't move me the way it was supposed to. This could entirely be my fault. You see, I read The Notebook on a plane. Sitting next to me were two unaccompanied minors who were exhibiting brotherly love by beating the crap out of each other. This situation didn't exactly put me in the mood for love.
Also, I have to confess, I was kind of annoyed with Allie. Why did she wait so long to find Noah? She was just about to get married before she figured out that she needed to see him again. Now, I suppose her place in post-war high-class society had something to do with it. However, in the rest of the book, she seems like a strong woman who says her piece. All of a sudden, when it comes to Noah, she obeys her parents? Please.
I'm not trying to dismiss the book. In fact, any reader who enjoys a good love story will be drawn to The Notebook. It follows the same path as The Bridges of Madison County but doesn't quite get there. If you enjoyed Robert Waller's book, you will most likely enjoy this Nicholas Sparks work as well.
So don't let my negative reaction keep you from reading The Notebook. This is a story of love in its purest form (ok, except for the sex). It is a sweet story that I just couldn't get into, but perhaps you can. If you are a sensitive reader, you will most likely cry during some parts of the story, so keep a box of tissues handy.
If The Notebook sounds appealing to you, I also recommend A Walk to Remember also by Nicholas Sparks. It, too, is a love story that I happened to like. Maybe it was because I wasn't trapped in a plane with the children from hell when I was reading it.
Anyway, if you are in the mood for a good love story, give The Notebook a shot. Just don't read it in flight.