Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Sparks, who coauthored the self-help parable Wokini (Random, 1994), weighs in with a romantic novel that will receive a substantial marketing push. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In 1932, two North Carolina teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks fall in love. Spending one idyllic summer together in the small town of New Bern, Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson do not meet again for 14 years. Noah has returned from WWII to restore the house of his dreams, having inherited a large sum of money. Allie, programmed by family and the "caste system of the South" to marry an ambitious, prosperous man, has become engaged to powerful attorney Lon Hammond. When she reads a newspaper story about Noah's restoration project, she shows up on his porch step, re-entering his life for two days. Will Allie leave Lon for Noah? The book's slim dimensions and cliché-ridden prose will make comparisons to The Bridges of Madison County inevitable. What renders Sparks's (Wokini: A Lakota Journey of Happiness and Self-Understanding) sentimental story somewhat distinctive are two chapters, which take place in a nursing home in the '90s, that frame the central story. The first sets the stage for the reading of the eponymous notebook, while the later one takes the characters into the land beyond happily ever after, a future rarely examined in books of this nature. Early on, Noah claims that theirs may be either a tragedy or a love story, depending on the perspective. Ultimately, the judgment is up to readersbe they cynics or romantics. For the latter, this will be a weeper. Major ad/promo; first serial to Good Housekeeping; movie rights to New Line Cinema; Warner Audio; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
With a huge first printing and a major advertising campaign, Warner is clearly hoping that Sparks' first novel will duplicate the success of Robert James Waller's Bridges of Madison County. Written in the opaque language of a fable, the novel opens in a nursing home as 80-year-old Noah Calhoun, "a common man with common thoughts," reads a love story from a notebook; it is his own story. In 1946, Noah, newly returned from the war, is trying to forget a long-ago summer romance with Allie Nelson, the daughter of a powerful businessman. Allie, soon to be married, feels compelled to track Noah down. One steamed-crab dinner and a canoe ride later, they fall madly in love again. We then learn that Noah, now aged and infirm, is reading his notebook to Allie in an attempt to jog her memory, severely impaired by Alzheimer's disease, and, miraculously, he succeeds, much to the amazement of the hospital staff. There is something suspect about a romantic relationship that reaches its acme when one of the partners is in the throes of dementia, but then, this is well within the confines of the romance genre--love conquers all, even Alzheimer's, leaving the medical experts (and this reviewer) confounded. If you want to read a novel in which the romance is grounded in something real, and the magic is truly magical, read the work of Alice Hoffman. If you want to read an upscale Harlequin romance with great crossover appeal, then read The Notebook. (Reviewed Aug. 1996)0446520802Joanne Wilkinson
Kirkus Book Review
Sparks's debut is a contender in the Robert Waller book-sweeps for most shamelessly sentimental love story, with honorable mention for highest octane schmaltz throughout an extended narrative. New Bern is the Carolina town where local boy Noah Calhoun and visitor Allison Nelson fall in love, in 1932, when Noah is 17 and Allie 15 (``as he . . . met those striking emerald eyes, he knew . . . she was the one he could spend the rest of his life looking for but never find again''). Allie's socially prominent mom, however, sees their Romeo-and-Juliet affair differently, intercepting Noah's heartrendingly poetic love-letters, while Allie, sure he doesn't love her, never even sends hers. Love is forever, though, and in 1946 Allie sees a piece in the paper about Noah (he's back home after WW II, still alone, living in a 200-year-old house in the country) and drives down to see him, telling the socially prominent lawyer she's engaged to that she's gone looking for antiques (`` `And here it will end, one way or the other,' she whispered''). And together again the lovers come indeed, during a thunderstorm, before a crackling fire, leaving the poetic Noah to reflect that ``to him, the evening would be remembered as one of the most special times he had ever had.'' So, will Allie marry her lawyer? Will Noah live out his life alone, rocking on his porch, paddling up the creek, ``playing his guitar for beavers and geese and wild blue herons''? Suffice it to say that love will go on, somehow, for 140 more pages, readers will find out what the title means and may or may not agree with Allie, of Noah: ``You are the most forgiving and peaceful man I know. God is with you, He must be, for you are the closest thing to an angel that I've ever met.'' An epic of treacle, an ocean of tears, made possible by a perfect, ideal, unalloyed absence of humor. Destined, positively, for success. (First serial to Good Housekeeping; film rights to New Line Cinema; Literary Guild selection)