Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

This is my first book for the Books to Movies challenge, so I'll be comparing both in this review. The Notebook has long been a favourite film of mine, and one that never fails to make me cry, and I was interested to see if the book would affect me in the same way. It's hard to avoid spoilers when comparing the book and film in this way, so you might not want to read on if you're not familiar with either.

The story in centered around Noah and Allie, and the film follows them during three periods in their life together; when they first meet and fall in love as teenagers, when they are reunited in their thirties and when they are old and nearing the end of their lives. The old Allie and Noah form the frame around the earlier stories; Allie has grown ill with Alzheimer's and Noah reads to her from her old notebook of their youth together. Though she has grown confused and no longer recognises Noah, the story from the notebook is sometimes able to penetrate the haze of her memory and bring her back to him for a short time.

The most noticable difference between the film and the book is that the book says very little about the teenage Noah and Allie, and uses a couple of pages to summarise what takes over a third of the film to describe. I'm glad the film fleshed out this part of the story, as it makes the other parts of the tale much more powerful when you have a good sense of what came before.

So, rarely for film adaptations, the film actually told a more complete story than the book. I was surprised by how short the book was - I finished it in just under three hours - as I had expected it to contain more detail than it did. What struck me, and this is certainly more noticeable with the book than the film, is the absence of secondary characters. The whole thing is centred around Noah and Allie, and the small mentions of other characters are only there to serve the central story. This makes for a very intense book, and the author plays with the emotions quite blatently. I knew this as I was reading; a part of me was scolding myself for getting so wrapped up in the schmaltz, but I still couldn't quite stop myself.

The film makes another addition that I wasn't so keen on. It gave 30 year old Noah a lover, whom Allie met when she went back to find him. I couldn't really see the point of this, but I guess the filmmakers were just hoping to add a little extra tension and another strand to the story.

Did the book make me cry? Not quite, though that might be more because I was sitting next to my stepfather while reading it, who would have never let me hear the end of it if I'd shed tears over a book. This is the first time I've read any Nicholas Sparks, and I'm surprised that a book like this could have been written by a man - I don't think I've ever read anything similar by a male author. I wonder if all his books are as emotionally charged as this one? There is a sequel to The Notebook, so I'm very tempted to give that a go and see how it compares.

For once I actually preferred the film, especially the very last scene, which is missing from the book. That, for me, is the one that gets the tears really flowing. You can just about fight them back until then, but once the last scene plays you don't stand a chance, no matter how many stepfathers might be present!

After all this high emotion, I'm ready for something completely different, so I'm reaching for some post-apocalyptic sci-fi. That should sort me out!


  1. Wow, great analysis!  The Notebook is my favorite Nicholas Sparks book - so touching.  One point for films...

  2. The book might be an easy read, but it gives a lot of room for self interpretation (eg. you can make Noah's and Allie's history anything you want). I'm not a fan of the movie, mostly because I work with books (I'm a love story author). I'd read The Notebook any time of the year.