July 2008

Sparks’ romantic ‘Nights in Rodanthe’ finds new life on the big screen

By Nicholas Sparks
Review by
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This fall, the fourth Nicholas Sparks novel-turned-screenplay, Nights in Rodanthe, will open in theaters nationwide. The love story stars film greats Diane Lane and Richard Gere, reunited for the first time since the sizzling 2002 film Unfaithful. Their onscreen chemistry should help lure Sparks' fans back to the theater for the movie's October 3 premiere.

Sparks' novels have become a lucrative franchise for movie makers during the past decade. A Walk to Remember earned a respectable $47 million in 2002, and blockbusters Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Notebook (2004) grossed more than $100 million each at the box office. Sparks has also reportedly sold the film rights for novels True Believer and At First Sight and is currently working on an unsold screenplay for The Guardian. With an additional $100 million in DVD sales for the first three movies, an excellent turnout at theaters for this fall's film could send Sparks' work toward the half-billion mark in movie earnings. Avid fans certainly wouldn't be disappointed to see all of Sparks' 14 books come to life on screen someday, and it is safe to say that Hollywood wouldn't mind either.

Based on the 2002 novel Nights in Rodanthe, the upcoming movie is another of the love stories skillfully imagined by Sparks. Most of the novel is set in 1988, the same year Sparks and his wife Cathy first met. Protagonist Adrienne Willis, played by Diane Lane, is a middle-aged librarian and divorced mother of three. When her errant spouse seeks to return to her, and her teenage daughter grows ever more indignant, Adrienne escapes the chaos to an inn owned by a friend on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where she tries to gain clarity and a moment of peace. Just as an ominous storm begins to roll into the coast, Dr. Paul Flanner, played by Richard Gere, arrives at the inn as a guest, also searching for respite from an inner crisis and a troubled past. As the two lone guests find consolation in each other, they embark on a romance that will echo long after their separation.

Readers who want to savor the full romance of the novel before seeing the movie have several options to choose from. Nights in Rodanthe is available in hardcover and paperback editions, with a new movie tie-in paperback set to go on sale in August. In audio, the book is available unabridged on CD.

Directed by George C. Wolfe, the film will also star James Franco, Scott Glenn and Christopher Meloni. The movie was filmed at various locations along the North Carolina coast, including Rodanthe, a small community on Hatteras Island. The locations are not far from the home in New Bern, North Carolina, where Sparks and his wife Cathy live with their five children.

Skeptical readers have suggested that the characters and plot for the novel were influenced by The Bridges of Madison County, though Sparks, who acknowledges similarities, has denied any such connections. In fact, he has revealed that the novel is not entirely fiction, with certain events having been inspired by his own romantic pursuit of his wife. Much of the novel is, in fact, a parallel to their real-life courtship.

Nicholas and Cathy met in a small coastal town while on spring break during their college years.

For the novel, however, Sparks was inspired to write about middle-aged characters for the first time. The names of Paul and Adrienne are actually the names of Sparks' in-laws, who asked for the gesture as a Christmas present.

Like Paul, Nicholas admitted to Cathy the day after they met that he wanted to spend his life with her, and like Adrienne, Cathy was dubious of his declaration. After spending five days together, Nicholas and Cathy left the small town where they met, but continued to call and write to each other daily. Several of the letters included in the novel contain excerpts from Sparks' original love letters to his future wife. "Love comes at any age, at any time, and often when we least expect it," reads the novel's flap, a statement which Sparks attests through his own life story and marriage of 19 years.

Sparks' next book is The Lucky One, which features a man who finds a photograph and becomes determined to track down the woman pictured, convinced that she holds the key to his happiness. The novel is due for release on Sept. 30.

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Nights in Rodanthe

Nights in Rodanthe

By Nicholas Sparks
Time Warner Audiobooks
ISBN 9781586214395

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