Book Review: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

BookReviewTheNotebook

I loved the film. Loved it. I’m not usually a big fan of romances (film or books), especially stories that revolve solely around romance, but The Notebook had me in tears, because cute old people in love is my weak spot.

Having said that, when I finally got to reading the book behind that film, I was surprised.

And very disappointed.

Contains spoilers, duh.

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The Notebook is written in all the ways amateur writers (of which I am one) are told not to: telling instead of showing; dumping backstories instead of littering it throughout the rest of the story; bringing the story to a grinding halt just so the author can dump purple prose on the surrounding area, which contributes nothing whatsoever to the progress of the plot — if anything, it came as a detriment to the plot as the time hops back and forward and eye-wateringly long background description just made very obvious padding to an already-flimsy plot.

Another irritating thing Sparks liked to do in the story is play the unnecessary pronoun game. There is literally no reason to avoid using Allie’s name in the first 30 pages, especially as we spent two periods in her head, unless he’s saying Allie doesn’t call herself Allie but rather ‘she’? There was no great mystery the female significant interest is called Allie. It doesn’t do anything — beyond irritate the reader — by withholding her name. She wasn’t operating as some secret agent or deliberately withholding her name from whoever was telling the story — which, I’ve come to find out, isn’t whoever’s head we sat in despite the apparent third person limited POV. More on that later.

We aren’t told what was in the newspaper clipping that shocked Allie into returning to visit Noah, and it turned out to be an announcement he’d bought the Raleigh home.

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Allie knew it was Noah. Noah knew it was Noah. The storyteller knew it was Noah. There literally was no point in withholding that information and it didn’t advance the plot.

The story itself was so slow and uninteresting. Sparks was so busy painting the surroundings, showing us the scent and sounds and atmosphere of the rural area Allie and Noah were in that the story ground to a complete halt on multiple occasions. He painted great images, I’d give him that. I saw and felt everything, everything but the actual characters themselves and the plot. When the crumbling engine that was the plot finally progressed again, it still dragged. Sparks stops the “now” to give a history lesson of the area that didn’t contribute much to the story; this could have been peppered throughout or shown through conversation. The story could have been told in half the number of words. I don’t really care Noah’s dad taught him to always chop wood with a sharp axe. At 160/200 pages, the story halted completely once more. We’re told the scenes of Noah and Allie’s nursing home. We’re told about the nurses, their routines, Noah’s routines — all without moving the plot forward. The story could have stopped there. It didn’t.

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I couldn’t figure out what POV this was. I assume, given the recurrent and very jarring head-hopping this was third person omniscient, and honestly I’ve never read a book told this way before, so I’m very new to the style. If I can call it that. I thought the beauty of third omniscient is the reader knows everything and everyone at any one point — and Sparks certainly had moments of that, such as when we saw Noah falling asleep and then we were told his dog came up to curl at his feet and we saw things through Allie’s mother’s eyes before we were unceremoniously yanked back into Allie’s again. We are told Noah and Allie both fall in love with each other again. We are told they love each other so. Aside from irritation at being constantly expelled from the story, because being told what everyone is feeling, I felt nothing else for the characters. For a storytelling style that is meant to make me aware of the thoughts and processes of all the characters, I couldn’t feel their love or despair, which meant all the things they had at stake meant nothing to me and I couldn’t even sympathise, let alone root for, them.

All the characters were boring and one-dimensional. I honestly couldn’t give a shit about Noah or Allie, or anyone else in that story.

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The story wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t finish — that glory I reserved solely for 50 Shades of Grey so far — but I seldom do that to a book as long as the plot managed some semblance of progression. I read it all and came away wanting my three hours back.

Verdict: 1 star, will never touch a Nicholas Sparks book again.

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