Title: The Notebook.
Author: Nicholas Sparks.
Genre: Fiction, literature, romance, chick lit.
Publication Date: 1996.
Summary: At thirty-one, Noah Calhoun, back in coastal North Carolina after World War II, is haunted by images of the girl he lost more than a decade earlier. At twenty-nine, socialite Allie Nelson is about to marry a wealthy lawyer, but she cannot stop thinking about the boy who long ago stole her heart. In a retirement home, an old man reads to a woman a story of first love found, lost, and found again. These stories are connected through love, time, tragedy, and hope.
My rating: 5.5/10.
♥ I am nothing special; of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.
♥ But he had been in love once, that he knew. Once and only once, and a long time ago. And it had changed him forever. Perfect love did that to a person, and this had been perfect.
♥ He ate at the creek because the mullets were jumping. He liked to watch them jump three or four times and glide through the air before vanishing into the brackish water. For some reason he had always been pleased by the fact that their instinct hadn't changed for thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of years.
Sometimes he wondered if man's instincts had changed in that time and always concluded that they hadn't. At least in the basic, most primal ways. As far as he could tell, man had always been aggressive, always striving to dominate, trying to control the world and everything in it. The war in Europe and Japan proved that.
♥ Camping and exploring became his passion, and he spent hours in the forest, sitting beneath blackjack oak trees, whistling quietly, and playing his guitar for beavers and geese and wild blue herons. Poets knew that isolation in nature, far from people and things man-made, was good for the soul, and he'd always identified with poets.
♥ His daddy had always said: "Give a day's work for a day's pay. Anything less is stealing." That attitude pleased his boss. "It's a shame you aren't Jewish," Goldman would say, "you're such a fine boy in so many other ways." It was the best compliment Goldman could give.
♥ He stepped off the porch and began to approach her, walking easily, then suddenly stopped cold as she emerged form the car. For a long time all they could do was stare at each other without moving.
Allison Nelson, twenty-nine years old and engaged, a socialite, searching for answers she needed to know, and Noah Calhoun, the dreamer, thirty-one, visited by the ghost that had come to dominate his life.
♥ She heard the shock in his voice as he spoke, and surprising her, it all came together—being here, seeing him. She felt something twitch inside, something deep and old, something that made her dizzy for just a second.
She caught herself fighting for control. She hadn't expected this to happen, didn't want it to happen. She was engaged now. She hadn't come here for this... yet...
Yet the feeling went on despite herself, and for a brief moment she felt fifteen again. Felt as she hadn't in years, as if all her dreams could still come true.
Felt as though she'd finally come home.
♥ He looked at her. She was pretty still, with thick hair and soft eyes, and she moved so gracefully that it almost seemed as though she were gliding. He'd seen beautiful women before, though, women who caught his eyes, but to his mind they usually lacked the traits he fund most desirable. Traits like intelligence, confidence, strength of spirit, passion, traits that inspired others to greatness, traits he aspired to himself.
Allie had those traits, he knew, and as they walked now, he sensed them once again lingering beneath the surface. "A living poem" had always been the words that came to mind when he tried to describe her to others.
♥ "..That was the first time my parents knew I was serious about you, and my mother had a long talk with me later that night. She said to me, 'I'm sure you think that I don't understand what you're going through, but I do. It's just that sometimes, our future is dictated by what we are, as opposed to what we want.' I remember being really hurt when she said that."
"You told me about it the next day. It hurt my feelings, too. I liked your parents, and I had no idea they didn't like me."
"It wasn't that they didn't like you. They didn't think you deserved me."
"There's not much difference."
There was a sadness in his voice when he responded, and she knew he was right to feel that way. She looked toward the stars while she ran her hand through her hair, pulling back the strands that had fallen onto her face.
"I know that. I always did. Maybe that's why my mother and I always seem to have a distance between us when we talk."
"How do you feel about it now?"
"The same as I did back then. That it's wrong, that it isn't fair. It was a terrible thing for a girl to learn. That status is more important than feelings."
♥ And while he was doing those things, he thought about Allie and the love that was missing from both of their lives.
Allie, too, was thinking. About Noah, about herself, about a lot of things. For a moment she wished she weren't engaged but then quickly cursed herself. It wasn't Noah she loved; she loved what they once had been. Besides, it was normal to feel this way. Her first real love, the only man she'd ever been with—how could she expect to forget him?
Yet was it normal for her insides to twitch whenever he came near? Was it normal to confess things she could never tell anyone else? Was it normal to come here three weeks from her wedding day?
"No, it's not," she finally whispered to herself as she looked to the evening sky. "There's nothing normal about any of this."
♥ But something else happened then, something even more powerful.
Why it happened, she never knew, but this was when the chasm began to close for Allie, the chasm she had erected in her life to separate the pain from the pleasure. And she suspected then, maybe not consciously, that there was more to this than even she cared to admit.
But at that moment she still wasn't completely aware of it, and she turned to face him. She reached over and touched his hand, hesitantly, gently, amazed that after all these years he'd somehow known exactly what she'd needed to hear. When they eyes locked, she once again realized how special he was.
And just a fleeting moment, a tiny wisp of time that hung in the air like fireflies in summer skies, she wondered if she was in love with him again.
♥ And inside, he ached.
For something had happened during dinner.
Quite simply, he had fallen in love again. He knew that now as they sat next to one another. Fallen in love with a new Allie, not just her memory.
But then, he had never really stopped, and this, he realized, was his destiny.
♥ This was a night he wanted never to end. How should he tell her? What could he say that would make her stay?
He didn't know. And thus the decision was made to say nothing. And he realized then that he had failed.
The rockers moved in quiet rhythm. Bats again, over the river. Moths kissing the porch light. Somewhere, he knew, there were people making love.
"Talk to me," she finally said, her voice sensual. Or was his mind playing tricks?
♥ It wasn't just the poems or his voice that did it. It was all of it, the whole greater than the sum of the parts. She didn't try to break it down, didn't want to, because it wasn't meant to be listened to that way. Poetry, she thought, wasn't written to be analyzed; it was meant to inspire without reason, to touch without understanding.
♥ But there was something else that made her want to wait, and it had to do with Lon himself. He was driven in his work, and it always commanded most of his attention. Work came first, and for him there was no time for poems and wasted evenings and rocking on porches. She knew this was why he was successful, and a part of her respected him for that. But she also sensed it wasn't enough. She wanted something else, something different, something more. Passion and romance, perhaps, r maybe quiet conversations in candlelit rooms, or perhaps something as simple as not being second.
♥ And sometime after midnight on that clear October evening, it all rushed inward and Noah was overcome with longing. And if anyone had seen him, they would have seen what looked like an old man, someone who'd aged a lifetime in just a couple of hours. Someone bent over in his rocker with his face in his hands and tears in his eyes.
He didn't know how to stop them.
♥ This was a worker's world, not a poet's, and people would have a hard time understanding Noah. America was in full swing now, all the papers said so, and people were rushing forward, leaving behind the horrors of war. She understood the reasons, but they were rushing, like Lon, toward long hours and profits, neglecting the things that brought beauty to the world.
Who did she know in Raleigh who took time off to fix a house? Or read Whitman or Eliot, finding images in the mind, thoughts of the spirit? Or hunted dawn from the bow of a canoe? These weren't the things that drove society, but she felt they shouldn't be treated as unimportant. They made living worthwhile.
♥ The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we've lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we've found each other. And maybe each time, we've been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this good-bye is both a good-bye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.
When I look at you, I see your beauty and grace and know they have grown stronger with every life you have lived. And I know I have spent every life before this one searching for you. Not someone like you, but you, for your soul and mine must always come together. And then, for a reason neither of us understands, we've been forced to say good-bye.
I would love to tell you that everything will work out for us, and I promise to do all I can to make sure it does. But if we never meet again and this is truly good-bye, I know we will see each other again in another life. We will find each other again, and maybe the stars will have changed, and we will not only love each other in that time, but for all the times we've had before.
♥ She buried her face in his neck and felt him deep inside her, felt his strength and gentleness, felt his muscle and his soul. She moved rhythmically against him, allowing him to take her wherever he wanted, to the place she was meant to be.
She opened her eyes and watched him in the firelight, marveling at his beauty as he moved above her. She saw his body glisten with crystal sweat and watched as beads rolled down his chest and fell onto her like the rain outside. And with every drop, with every breath, she felt herself, every responsibility, every facet of her life, slipping away.
Their bodies reflected everything given, everything taken, and she was rewarded with a sensation she never knew existed. It went on and on, tingling throughout her body and warming her before finally subsiding, and she struggled to catch her breath while she trembled beneath him. But the moment it was over, another one started to build again, and she started to feel them in long sequences, one right after the next. By the time the rain had stopped and the sun had set, her body was exhausted but unwilling to stop the pleasure between them.
They spent the day in each other's arms, alternately making love by the fire and then holding each other as they watched the flames curl around the wood.
♥ "You are the answer to every prayer I've offered. You are a song, a dream, a whisper, and I don't know how I could have lived without you for as long as I have. I love you, Allie, more than you can ever imagine. I always have, and I always will."
♥ Late at night when my mind is right, I will sneak from my room and go to hers ans watch her while she sleeps. Of this she knows nothing. I'll come in and see her breathe and know that had it not been for her, I would never have married. And when I look at her face, a face I know better than my own, I know that I have meant as much or more to her. And that means more to me than I could ever hope to explain.
♥ Thomas, Whitman, Eliot, Shakespeare, and King David of the Psalms. Lovers of words, makers of language.
♥ Poetry brings great beauty to life, but also great sadness, and I'm not sure it's a fair exchange for someone my age. A man should enjoy other things if he can; he should spend his final days in the sun. Mine will be spent by a reading lamp.
♥ My hands are useless, my kidneys are beginning to fail, and my heart rate is decreasing every month. Worse, I have cancer again, this time of the prostate. This is my third bout with the unseen enemy, and it will take me eventually, though not till I say it is time. The doctors are worried about me, but I am not. I have no time for worry in this twilight of my life.
♥ She wipes at her tears and says, "Help me, Duke, help me remember who I am. Or at least, who I was. I feel so lost."
I answer from my heart, but I lie to her about her name. As I have about my own. There is a reason for this.
"You are Hannah, a lover of life, a strength to those who shared in your friendship. You are a dream, a creator of happiness, an artist who has touched a thousand souls. You've led a full life and wanted for nothing because your needs are spiritual ad you have only to look inside you. You are kind and loyal, and you are able to see beauty where others do not. You are a teacher of wonderful lessons, a dreamer of better things."
I stop for a moment and catch my breath. Then, "Hannah, there is no reason to feel lost, for:
Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world,
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;...
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
...shall duly flame again;"
She thinks about what I have said for a moment. In the silence, I look toward the window and notice that the rain has stopped now. Sunlight is beginning to filter into her room. She asks:
"Did you write that?"
"No, that was Walt Whitman."
"A lover of words, a shaper of thoughts."
It is a barren disease, as empty and lifeless as a desert. It is a thief of hearts and souls and memories.
♥ My mind was confused, my love was shaking, and the one thing I could think was:
No drowning man can know which drop
of water his last breath did stop;...
A wise poet's words, yet they brought me no comfort. I don't know what they meant or why I thought of them.
♥ In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you, and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry, I cry, and when you hurt, I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods of tears and despair and make it through the potholed streets of life.
I pause for just a moment, remembering him. He was four years old at the time, just a baby. I have lived twenty times as long as he, but if asked, I would have traded my life for his. It is a terrible thing to outlive your child, a tragedy I wish upon no one.
♥ The sky was slowly changing color, and as I was watching the sun go down, I remember thinking about that brief, flickering moment when day suddenly tuns into night.
Dusk, I realized then, is just an illusion, because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are; there cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. How would it feel, I remember wondering, to be always together, yet forever apart?
Looking back, I find it ironic that she chose to read the letter at the exact moment that question popped into my head. It is ironic, of course, because I know the answer now. I know what it's like to be day and night now; always together, forever apart.
♥ We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken us a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.
♥ The days were hard on both of us. I was an encyclopedia, an object without feeling, of the whos, whats and wheres in her life, when in reality it is the whys, the things I did not know and could not answer, that make it all worthwhile. She would stare at pictures of forgotten offspring, hold paintbrushes that inspired nothing, and read love letters that brought back no joy. She would weaken over the hours, growing paler, becoming bitter, and ending the day worse than when it began. Our days were lost, and so was she. And selfishly, so was I.
So I changed. I became Magellan or Columbus, an explorer in the mysteries of the mind, and I learned, humbling and slow, but learning nonetheless what had to be done. And I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot bettered. But most of all, I learned that life is about sitting on benches next to ancient creeks with my hand on her knee and sometimes, on good days, for falling in love.
♥ The body slows with mortal ache, yet my promise
remains true at the closing of our days,
A tender touch that ends with a kiss
will awaken love in joyous ways.
..Our souls were one, if you must know
and never shall they be apart;
With splendid dawn, your face aglow
I reach for you and find my heart.
♥ "..I don't want to forget you again. You're very special to me. I don't know what I would have done without you today."
My throat closes a little. There is emotion behind her words, the emotions I feel whenever I think of her. I know this is what I live for, and I love her dearly at this moment. How I wish I were strong enough to carry her in my arms to paradise.
"Don't try to say anything," she tells me. "Let's just feel the moment."
And I do, and I feel paradise.
♥ I look around the room, then up to the ceiling, then back at Allie, and the way she's looking at me makes me warm. And suddenly I feel young again. I'm no longer cold or aching, or hunched over or deformed, or almost blind with cataractal eyes.
I'm strong and proud, and the luckiest man alive, and I keep on feeling that way for a long time across the table.
♥ I am tired now, so I sit, alone and apart from my wife. And when the nurses come in they see two people they must comfort. A woman shaking in fear from demons in her mind, and the old man who loves her more deeply than life itself, crying softly in the corner, his face in his hands.
♥ He works too much, I tell him. Spend the time with your family, I say, they won't be around forever. But he doesn't listen to me. He cares for his patients, he says, and must come here when called. He says he has no choice, but this makes him a man torn by contradiction. He wants to be a doctor completely devoted to his patients and a man completely devoted to his family. He cannot be both, for there aren't enough hours, but he has yet to learn this. I wonder, as his voice fades into the background, which he will choose or whether, sadly, the choice will be made for him.
♥ "..It's just that right now I feel... alone.|"
"I'm alone," I say as I look at my watch and think of his family sleeping in a quiet house, the place he should be. "And so are you."
♥ Then, opening them, I watched my old friend, the creek, roll by my window. Unlike Allie, I had been given a room where I could see it, and it has never failed to surprise me. It is a contradiction—this creek—a hundred thousand years old but renewed with each rainfall. I talked to it that morning, whispered so it could hear, "You are blessed, my friend, and I am blessed, and together we meet the coming days." The ripples and waves circled and twisted in agreement, the pale glow of morning light reflecting the world we share. The creek and I. Flowing, ebbing, receding. It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.
♥ ..I knew then we would always be together, even though I wavered the following day. My heart had been captured, roped by a southern poet, and I knew inside that it had always been yours. Who was I to question a love that rode on shooting stars and roared like crashing waves? For that is what it was between us then and that is what it is today.