Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
Me Before You is a timeless love story, that is beautifully poignant, devastatingly heart-breaking but also wonderfully life-affirming and charming to devour.
Lou Clark is an eccentric tea shop worker, but she likes to live life safely. She still lives in her crowded childhood home, which is bursting from the amount of occupants. She’s never taken seriously by her family. She feels constricted with her fitness obsessed boyfriend, and has only ventured out of her tourist town home once. So, when she discovers that she is losing her job at The Buttered Bun, she immediately panics.
After dealing with a handful of mediocre jobs handed out carelessly by the local Job Centre, Lou gets an interview to become a carer for a young quadriplegic. An interview that has the potential to change her and her family’s financial situation drastically.
Will Traynor is an attractive, outgoing businessman, who has a passion for life. That is until he is involved in a motorcycle accident that leaves him paralysed. Depressed and lonely, Will is a joyless, sarcastic shell of his former self, shutting himself off from old friends and his glamorous ex-girlfriend. His family desperately search for a way to add excitement and fulfilment in his life.
Lou becomes Will’s latest carer, despite Will’s hatred towards her and the situation they are both in. Full of spite and anger, Will resists at first as Lou boldly introduces colour back into his mundane life, forcing him to concerts and outings. However, neither of them are aware that slowly a friendship is forming. A friendship that will change each of them for all of time.
You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.
Jojo Moyes is, quite simply, a literature goddess. Her prose is intrinsically woven, with it being blindingly captivating from the first page. Her beautiful balance between poetic descriptions and chatty, realistic conversations between characters is mesmerising. But, it also adds such an engrossing flow to the story, so much so that it’s incredibly gripping, and a flawless page-turner.
More importantly that the writing it seems in regards to Me Before You is the bewitching characters Moyes creates. Her characters are really the heart and soul of this story and without their loveable, annoying tendencies, this book would fail on emotional impact. The characters themselves aren’t perfect, they aren’t the stereotypical faultless characters that ultimately, lack substance, they are outstandingly flawed and outright frustrating at times. Instead of this being a bad thing, Moyes perfects the balance brilliantly, with her characters appearing real, so real in fact that it’s easy to picture them in harrowing situations.
As readers, we don’t want one-dimensional boring characters that are either all good or all bad. We relish in characters who have layers because it doesn’t just make them wonderfully realistic but also spellbinding and riveting to read about. Moyes screams at us as we devour Me Before You; “These characters are normal people. This situation is happening around the world right now, and could happen to anyone.” This poignant message is what really makes this book so haunting to read, but also forces the reader to think and truly appreciate the situation Lou and Will (and his family) are in.
Will Traynor is stunning and it’s pretty much impossible not to fall in love with his charismatic charm. His sarcastic humour and dark personality in contrast to Lou’s witty and outrageous behaviour is magnetic. But, his guarded demeanour is also heart-breaking, because of his journey. The sheer fact that this successful, brilliant man was stripped of his entire life is utterly tormenting to read about. As a reader, we find ourselves so angry and bitterly distraught but still, oddly, optimistic that Will may be able to live a new life that is as good. However, even more oddly, we understand his inner turmoil in regards to wanting to commit suicide.
Lou is breath-taking. Her eccentric clothes and almost childlike personality is heart-warming, and enjoyable to read from her perspective. Her pain is illuminated through her perspective, every ounce of worry, hurt and sorrow that pounds through Lou’s body, the reader feels, and quite frankly it’s emotionally exhausting. Her journey and how she progresses through Me Before You is so sublimely told by Moyes that as a reader, at the end of this book, we need time to digest it all.
Praise to Moyes is required through her tasteful treatment of the topic of quadriplegia. She handles the topic so magnificently, that it’s illuminating for the reader. Because told through Lou’s perspective, we see into Will’s health care, from his constant health worries, his pain, his restrictions but also the distressing comments and barbaric stares that he receives whenever he ventures out of his annex. This eye-opening recollection is so brutal but so honest and raw, with it having the power to make the reader question their own lives.
Me Before You is advertised as a love story. But in essence, it is so much more. It’s above all else, a story of survival, patience, ambitions, hardship, loyalty and simply, life. It’s a story that illuminates how fragile and precious life can be. It magnifies how one moment can change a life, for better or worse. Most importantly, it highlights what is vital. Will’s message is one of the many aspects that rings true throughout the novel.
Just live well. Just live.
What is so stunning about this story is that the reader desperately wants a happy ending, but deep down it’s obvious that it simply cannot be. Due to Moyes’ dazzling story-telling, we accept this as a reader. Even though the ending is devastating and will cause floods of tears, the novel doesn’t end on a sad note. It’s ending is fascinatingly optimistic and at least provides a tiny bit of satisfaction.
Even though this story is a sad one and will unquestionably make you cry, it’s also a book that will truly warm your heart. It shows human compassion so beautifully that it’s a true triumph. It will have you laughing out loud and then with the flick of a page, sobbing like an infant. It’s unpredictable, ravishing and an instant classic.
You have to read this book. (Also, the film comes out on 3rd June so what more reason to delve in).