Review

Message in a Bottle

by Nicholas Sparks

I am a fan of author Nicholas Sparks. I loved THE NOTEBOOK, read it in one night ---with tissues in hand --- and I still reflect on it often.  
  
I eagerly looked forward to MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, but was troubled by some of the plot direction in it. There were parts that really did not "track" for me. Here is my favorite example: Theresa is totally in love with Garret...she has spent weeks tracking him down...even flying to meet him more than once...her female editor is thrilled for her. So WHY does she skip that dinner the weekend before Thanksgiving which causes the rift between them? Any woman who has been in love or intrigued enough by a man knows she will move heaven and earth to see him. This woman had a boss who was thrilled by her new romance...and she does what? Stays in Texas? I do not think so. Of course, people have told me I need to suspend reality when reading fiction. I am curious if others of you do that.  
  
As for the movie...I admit that Costner makes me weak in the knees and I watched an A&E Special on Newman that was so good that I was primed to love the movie. And I did. Many parts came to life better than the book while some of the "new pieces" did not work.
  
I think that in the movie Theresa's looks, her hesitancy and her babbling all came across more realistically than they did in the book. What did not work for me...the male editor (I felt the female was a much better character for the story and her relationship with her own husband made her romantic advice believable), the whole subplot with Catherine's paintings (though in a film I think one needs SOMETHING to tie a plot around which is tangible), the in-law problems, and Catherine being portrayed as frail. I am not sure that Garret would have loved a woman that frail. I think from Catherine he drew a strength that was stronger than love.  
  
That said...I would recommend both the book and the movie. If you enjoy light reading, it is a perfect combo to do a movie/book comparison on. Costner and Company were a very good cast. Just take the advice handed to me, and suspend belief for a while.  
  
Last week, we asked for some reader reactions on MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. These comments follow. Thanks to all who shared perspectives.

  
Readers/Watchers' Reviews
  
ElisePou@aol.com
I also read the book when it came out and saw the movie last weekend. It was a different experience just like it should be: cinema is different to literature. So the new ending, for instance, was so much better for a movie ending, and the other one was a better literary closing which could stay on with you in your mind. The directing was the best: beautiful images, great editing, excellent directing of great actors. I also liked the way the movie avoided repetitions of the trip with the son and had him sail on the lake in Chicago! Very ingenuous.
  
AK7DE3GB7@aol.com
I saw the movie first, than started the book. I'm almost finished with the book. I have two chapters to go. To me there's only a slight resemblance between the two. I liked the movie best, although that may be because I saw it first. I did like the other book he has written too.  
  
Knockat@aol.com
Concerning the movie: Kevin Costner plays one slick character. I jotted down plenty of useful notes. Surprisingly good for a Lifetime movie. Good enough to want to discuss it. I thought the ending was the movie's forte. I did not know the modern tragedy exists, or could be this popular. Balanced enough for the whole family, but I found the men in the audience were the ones most affected.
  
Wvirgil2@aol.com
I also read the book before seeing the movie. I thought the scenes of him trying to rescue the other boaters were superfluous. I would have liked seeing the scene from the book in which the father told the son that he didn't want him missing his chance with the woman and ending up alone like him. I also felt that the movie should have followed the book at the end by letting the audience know that a year had passed between when the man and woman last saw one another and her learning of his death.  
  
Preserved@aol.com
I unfortunately read MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE soon after reading THE NOTEBOOK.  I think THE NOTEBOOK is one of the wonderful reads of the decade, though you need a couple of boxes of Kleenex for the last couple of chapters. The characters are fully realized, whatever that means, and you care deeply about their lives. I found MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE predictable and disappointing. The movie, however, I liked a lot, but it is hard to go wrong with that cast. It is rare for me to like the movie better by far than the book, but in this case, that is exactly how I felt.
  
Staby Baby@aol.com
I, too, thought the film was a totally different experience. It was enjoyable, but I did not like it as well as the book. The story involving the in-laws was OK, but not needed. They could have explored the feelings for his wife more deeply --- or her past with her husband to show the growth it took for both of them to take a chance again.  The photography was great, the settings beautiful. Paul Newman was perfect in his role. The ending (his becoming a hero in death) didn't work for me. The ending of the book was sadder for me.  

C17Lee25B@aol.com
The book was way better. Always is now isn't it? I didn't like the way they put her in Chicago (even though it is my old hometown). This ended up more like Sleepless in Seattle. I was hoping to actually see the North Carolina coast that I am familiar with. Also I had been looking forward to the dive shop since I am a diver.  

I thought Kevin Costner did a good job though and Robin Wright Penn as well. I just didn't like the two of them together. No chemistry. Catherine's inlaws were well portrayed by excellent actors. I did like the ending better than the book though. There was so much more involved in the book. The book told a story of what can happen if you refuse to let go. The tragedy could have been avoided if they had not been so stubborn. So there you have it, my little ol' opinion. I was surprised at how fast this movie was done. It was already under production when the book came out and I learned that from reading TBR. Now, if you can give me the lowdown on the production of COLD MOUNTAIN...

Zona626@aol.com
I just finished MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. I thought the basic premise was promising, but as the story progressed, I was really disappointed that the plot never was "fleshed out." The characters never developed, the whole plot sank to mediocrity and simplicity and seemed to scream, "Movie, movie, movie!"

Mi Bet@aol.com
Just got back from seeing Message in a Bottle after finishing the book this afternoon. I loved the book and could not put it down and just fell in love with the story and the way the author presented it. I feel that a lot was lost in the movie version without the dreams being presented and the way everything was changed. I would recommend the book version to anyone.

Onegenius@aol.com
I read the book first. A week later I saw the movie. They changed soooooo much. At times it was like two completely different stories!! The only thing that didn't change was the ending...although the circumstances surrounding the tragic end were different. Since the movie was so different, I kept hoping until the bitter end that they had changed the ending too. Alas...it was not to be!  

Which did I like better? It depends. I LOVE KEVIN COSTNER and I will watch anything he is in --- just to see that gorgeous face on the big screen. (I sat in the fifth row from the screen!)  I also needed a good escape from the stresses of home and work, so I enjoyed watching the love story on the screen. Paul Newman was a hoot!  Watching Costner and Newman interact in the movie was a real treat.  

The things I did NOT like about the movie were:
1) I did NOT appreciate the scenery from MAINE being called the Outer Banks...like DUH!? I wish the filmmakers had filmed on the gorgeously powerful North Carolina islands.    
2) And I preferred the circumstances surrounding the ending of the book over the ending of the movie. In the movie version, Garrett's trying to save the drowning woman was an unnecessary twist. But I guess the director was searching for some redemptive value.

However, the book was wonderful also. It was a quick read and a lovely, but sad story. The character development of Garrett and Theresa was, of course, more in-depth in the book.  

I think if I had NOT read the book, I would have enjoyed the movie a little bit more. I didn't even cry at the end of the movie because I knew the ending (even though I hoped it had changed). And I really was perturbed throughout about the Maine/Outer Banks switcheroo...but I would have picked up on that egregious error either way.

So...I liked both for different reasons.  

SHarris756@aol.com
I bought the book and by the second day, I finished reading it. It was a wonderful read and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. My friend recommended THE NOTEBOOK to me, but I wasn't able to get it until after I had bought MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. I told all of my friends, family about because it's a feel-good book that is appropriate for adults --- male as well as female. I can't wait to see the movie and then read THE NOTEBOOK.

Msjpj@aol.com
After having read the wonderful book and then seeing the movie, which I loved with the exception of some changes in the story (i.e. the hostility with Catherine's family --- not a good addition at all!), I just hate to see all the negative reviews coming out!  I really think, if someone reads the book first, then they will have a better understanding of the storyline and answer the critical whys they have.  Also, I would like to get a message to Nicholas Sparks or whoever is doing THE NOTEBOOK movie and plead with them not to change a THING in that WONDERFUL book!

Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on January 1, 1999

Message in a Bottle
by Nicholas Sparks

  • Publication Date: January 1, 1999
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vision
  • ISBN-10: 0446606812
  • ISBN-13: 9780446606813