Author; Jojo Moyes (British)
Publisher/Year of 1st Publication: The Penguin Group
Number of Pages; 498
Other Titles; After You, The One plus One, The Horse Dancer, Silver Bay.
I quite understand the mixed feelings and the reasons for them that this book is sure to give any reader. It’s sad, selfish perhaps, at the same time funny, self serving, arrogant etc. The one thing however I am sure that many people will be able to agree on is that it opens the mind a little more to the grief of others even though you may never truly understand the pain they are in.
The novel follows Will Traynor (who I pictured in my head to look slightly like David Beckham, without his tattoo and with hair that falls to his ear, possibly even taller) a quadriplegic whose entire existence since his accident now bores and depresses the life out of him, and his new carer Lou Clark who has just lost her job at a cafe she really loved working at. She takes on the task of being the one who ensures he has the best life despite being largely disabled. Without even trying too much, this book forces you to consider others first, to now consciously be aware or distressed about venues that aren’t wheel chair friendly, to not be that person who parks way too close to disabled people’s cars, making it difficult for them to wheel themselves out. Which is a good thing, and which is what I got from the story title. Me before you, as in think of me before you(yourself). It can also be interpreted as (Me) before (you) met me. Sorta.
Many think the novel portrays negatively that there is absolutely no reason worth living for when you are as disabled as Will Traynor who could do nothing by himself, even hold a straw to his mouth but I didn’t see it that way. In my opinion, while the author tried to give a hopeful look at Will’s grief from the eyes of Lou Clark, Camilla Traynor (his mother) and other sub characters, it is still important to know that the state of hopelessness is a personal thing for someone grieving. Family and friends may lean in all the shoulders which is infact very important, there may be money, a whole vault of it but the person needs to want to be hopeful at the very least before the prospects of living can be tabled before them.
However I do worry that since it has become a very popular book selling over 5million copies by 2014, it can vastly influence people’s opinion about whether there is much to look forward to in life especially when in someone like Will’s shoes
But I enjoyed this book, which feels rather odd to say considering all the depressing circumstances around it. It is full of British humour. The cover sells it as a romantic story which I think doesn’t do it much justice, it read for me as the life story of two unknowing individuals whose paths may never have crossed had one not been in a horrible accident and had the other not lost her job.
I like that it did not end as majority would have wanted it too. It reminded me that fiction as it may be, life sometimes really can throw you lemons which you basically can make no lemonade or anything at all out of no matter how you try.
My mixed feelings about the book comes with the reality that Will Traynor is in the book very highly capable of pushing Lou Clark to be the best version of herself – To pursue Fashion designing because of her weirdly stylish sense, to travel and not limit herself to the little city where she was born and had lived her whole life, to spread her wings and fly but significantly feels no will whatsoever to do that for himself. His life was perfect before the accident where he was adventurous- skiing, biking, travelling, crushing clients in business deals, having lots of sex and if he couldn’t do those anymore, everything that was truly the definition of him, now, there was nothing to look forward to. There was nothing to spread his wings for.
I would say again that it is not a romantic story as many of the photo ops especially for the movie (yes there is a movie) have made it to be. It is a thought provoking story of comfort and compassion and a hopeful look at grief.
The entire story happened in all of 6 months save for the prologue and epilogue.
I’ll rate it a 4 over 5 for being a well written non conventional story about love, the very thing that we all need to get through atleast one more day, and for treating some very difficult and often times controversial topic like suicide and euthanasia with utmost sensitivity.
You may need tissues for this one.
***Shout out to my sister in law Tayo who made me fast track this book on my to be read list. It had been on my shelf for a while. This review is for her.