There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding Me Before You leading up to the release of the film adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ book this month. As soon as I saw the trailer I knew it would be my kind of book and I’m not quite sure how I’d gone so long without reading it! After I found out that I was going to see the film on Saturday evening I made it my mission to finish the book. I say mission, it was everything but a mission to read.
Despite what the cover might suggest, Me Before You is not your usual fluffy chick lit. It reads like a romance but is actually a comment on emotionally-charged topics, including quality of life, assisted suicide and the psychological implications of disabilities. The romantic story line highlights the horribleness of the situation as you emotionally invest in their relationship, willing it to thrive.
Twenty-six year old Lou Clark lives within her comfort zone with no dreams or ambitions. She works in The Buttered Bun cafe in a small tourist town, which doesn’t have much going for it other than its castle, and lives at home with her parents, sister, nephew and granddad. When The Buttered Bun closes she’s left to find a new job with little qualifications and experience. One of the only suitable jobs she can find is a carer for a thirty-five year old quadriplegic man, which is how she meets Will Traynor. Before his injury two years previously, Will was a successful venture capitalist and action-man who lived life on the edge and took risks. However, he tragically lost his freedom when he was involved in a motorbike accident leaving him helpless with no movement from the chest down.
When Lou meets Will, she is taken aback by how blunt and rude he is. However hard she tries, he refuses her help and has simply given up on life. The only thing that keeps her from quitting is her family’s dependence on her income. Gradually, as they get to know each other Lou’s optimism rubs off on Will as he begins to relax around her and their relationship evolves from friendly banter into a bittersweet romance.
With only an eccentric fashion sense to define her, Lou gradually grows in confidence and finds her identity with Wills encouragement. It’s moving to observe their journey together as Will inspires her to start dreaming and live life to the full, just like he did before the accident snatched opportunity away from him.
The narrative is mostly told from the perspective of Lou with the odd chapter from other characters like her sister Treena or Mrs Traynor, Will’s mother. We don’t hear from Will himself until a letter from him to Lou at the end, which makes his words even more poignant. Not hearing from him until the end also builds tension as we wait with Lou to hear how he feels about her and his future.
From Lou’s fitness-obsessed boyfriend of six years to Will’s burly South-African nurse, Jojo Moyes creates some fantastic characters, each with their own flaws and redeeming features. I particularly like Lou as a delightfully determined and charming heroine who warms your heart as she negotiates awkward situations with enthusiasm.
A tragic story of love weaved with humour and filled to the brim with memorable moments, Me Before You is beautifully written and thought-provoking. Jojo Moyes tackles such difficult topics with sensitivity and realism whilst keeping us entertained. The narrative is honest rather than emotionally manipulative and makes you think about what you would do if you were in Lou Clark’s shoes, forcing us to re-examine our prejudices and morals.
The film adaptation is lovely and the setting and characters are just what I imagined. Emilia Clarke portrays Lou’s quirkiness perfectly and it’s worth watching for her wardrobe alone! If you’re going to see the film, I’d definitely recommend reading the book first. Or even if you’ve already seen the film, read the book as there’s a lot it misses out.
A heart-breaking read, Me Before You will make you cry both happy and sad tears (I even did and I’m an ice queen!) If you take anything away from the book or the film, remember that ‘you only get one life, It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.’