The Notebook begins with a man in a nursing home walking to the room of another patient in the home and opening a notebook to read her a story. In the story, Noah is 31 and has returned home after fighting in WWII. He buys a house in his rural North Carolina hometown to fix up and often thinks of an old love. He had met Allie shortly after graduating high school, and the two had a wonderful summer romance before Allie moved. The two had not seen each other since, but Noah never got over Allie. Allie, now 29 and engaged, sees an article in the paper about Noah’s home restoration project and decides to follow up with her old lover, who she never truly got over either. Allie visits Noah for a couple of days and the two realize that they never stopped loving each other. After a couple of romantic and steamy days, Allie’s mother shows up to warn that Allie’s fiancé has come to the town to look for her and, uncharacteristically, tells Allie to follow her heart. Allie tells Noah that she has to return to her fiancé, but ultimately tells her fiancé that she loves someone else and cannot marry him. Noah and Allie get married and have 4 children. The rest of the story is told by Noah, the older man in the nursing home who was reading to Allie, his wife. Allie has Alzheimer’s Disease and has progressed to a pretty bad point. Noah reads her their story every day, and on good days Allie occasionally remembers him, which is presented as the power of love overcoming her illness. The rest of the book reflects on their love, the happy life they have lived, and their children. This second half of the book is tragic due to Allie’s illness, but is ultimately uplifting and life-affirming.
The Notebook has many of the characteristics of a typical Romance. The plot centers on the relationship between two characters. These two were forced apart by outside circumstances but come back together over the course of the novel. The characters generally fit the typical stereotypes – Noah is rugged and strong, and Allie is bright and beautiful. However, Noah is everything that a Romance hero shouldn’t be: gentle, affectionate, mild-mannered, and sensible. Both characters are basically good people and are equal in their relationship. The point of view of both protagonists is given in the novel and there are engaging details of the setting (rural North Carolina). The ending is not the storybook happy ending expected in Romances, but is generally happy and optimistic (and the two did end up together, with a strong and long-lasting love). The difficulties of Allie’s Alzheimer’s Disease and the strength of Noah’s love provide a strong ’emotional pull’ that would appeal to typical Romance readers. Set in the years right after WWII, The Notebook could be said to be a historical romance, though there is limited period detail. The characters are products of their time and there is a feeling of nostalgia for simple, rural life.
I do not think that The Notebook was well written, and I did not enjoy reading it. Rather than rant about all of my complaints, I’ll just say that there was basically nothing about it that I liked. I do want to mention that one of my biggest problems with the book is that it more or less romanticizes cheating. Allie is engaged to someone else when she reunites with Noah, and only makes the decision between Noah and her fiancé after having plenty of sex with Noah.
Although I did not, I think that typical readers of Romance would enjoy The Notebook. It may also appeal to readers of Woman’s Lives and Relationships books. The details of place and feeling of nostalgia may appeal to readers of Westerns. The focus on the power of love may appeal to readers of Inspirational Fiction, though the explicit sex and cheating should be noted.