Saturday, 18 April 2009

Ni is for Nicholas Sparks

My N is Nicholas Sparks, who seems to have a knack for writing books that are easily adapted for the silver screen. His bilbiography reads like a list of Most Tragically Romantic Movies Ever Made – “Message in a Bottle”, “A Walk to Remember”, “The Notebook” and “Nights in Rodanthe”.
I decided to read “The Notebook” for a couple of reasons. Number one – it’s really short, barely topping one hundred and fifty pages. Number two – I’ve seen the film, so I knew what the basic story was.
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of the book or the film, here’s what it’s about. It’s told from the point of a view of an old man in a nursing home, reading The Notebook to his wife, who has Alzheimer’s. He reads her the story ever day in the hope that she will remember him and their life together. The Notebook is the story of Noah and Allie – teenage sweethearts who are torn apart by class and time, but return to each other later in life. As the story wears on you realise that the story is about the old couple in the nursing home, a fact that isn’t immediately obvious because their names are different, explained by not wanting to upset the woman with Alzheimer’s.
I know that a lot of people love The Notebook, and have heard stories about strapping, macho men crying their eyes out at the strength of Noah and Allie’s love, pushing against their mental and physical constraints to snatch a few more minutes together.
Personally, I remain unmoved. Maybe it’s because the attempt to tug at the heart strings is blatant throughout the film and the book, or maybe it’s because there just isn’t time to get to know the characters and get involved. I think it’s more likely that it’s because I, as the reader, am told through the book that Allie and Noah love each other, when all we get are recounts of long distant memories, a few snatched days in the middle and a day at the end.
Please bear in mind, by the way, that I cry at absolutely everything. Last week, I welled up watching a portly Greek bloke and his chubby son dance around in harem trousers and blonde wigs on “Britain’s Got Talent” and the merest hint of animals in trouble (“Fido was found tied to a gate post, watching as his beloved owners drove away. All he ever wanted was to be loved back”) and I’m drowing in my own salty water. Not with The Notebook, though.
The fact that Noah’s the narrator for most of the book is a bit strange, too. It’s not that I’m against a male point of view, I just don’t think it works – I found it a bit forced, to be honest. His devotion to his wife was undoubtedly touching, but there was a part of me who wished he’d stop torturing her and leave her alone.
The good news, for people who like the story, is that there’s a sequel! It’s called The Wedding, and tells the tale of Noah and Allie’s daughter and son-in-law, as they struggle with their marriage and living up to the inexplicable love story that came before.

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