Book: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (half)
I turned in my seat. Will’s face was in shadow and I couldn’t quite make it out.
‘Just hold on. Just for a minute.’
‘Are you all right?’ I found my gaze dropping towards his chair, afraid some part of him was pinched, or trapped, that I had got something wrong.
‘I’m fine. I just . . . ’
I could see his pale collar, his dark suit jacket a contrast against it.
‘I don’t want to go in just yet. I just want to sit and not have to think about . . . ’ He swallowed.
Even in the half-dark it seemed effortful.
‘I just . . . want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just for a few minutes more.’
Most book reviewers are going to tell you that they wept while reading this book. I must make it clear that I did not. No, I am not cynical about romantic novels nor am I averse to love. Me Before You is a perfectly good romantic novel about Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. It’s just that I didn’t cry.
Lou – as she is addressed is a 27-year-old who has just lost her job at the cafe The Buttered Bun. With a severely stunted skill set, she’s on the desperate lookout for a job since her family looks upon her finances to run the house. She lives with her parents (her dad’s job is in doldrums), a younger sister Katrina (or Treena) who is fairly much smarter than her and is also a single mother, and her grandpa. As she sits across the familiar face of Syed at the Job Center, they go through various low-skill jobs that she can take up. One thing leads to another and Lou turns up at the Traynor house as a personal care assistant for Will Traynor – a quadriplegic.
Though her job description does not involve medical care, all Lou needs to do is ensure that she doesn’t leave Will alone for more than five minutes. This turns out to be harder than anticipated because Will is rude and ill-tempered. The only person Will has a cordial relationship is his medical attendant Nathan. So, on the first day of her job, Lou finds herself being invisible to Will as much as possible. The fact that his mother Mrs. Traynor is so secretive and quiet doesn’t help Lou’s case at all. Lou misses The Buttered Bun and longs to go back to her old life. For Lou is a regular girl who loves in a “sleepy market town”, is dating her long-time boyfriend, and still stays with her family. Her experiments and brush with adventure run only to her wardrobe with her eclectic and loud choice of clothes “emerald green satin pumps, blue sequinned shorts and a “Pucci-type” mini-dress made from her grandfather’s curtains”.
As the story progresses, Lou finds out that her job is not just to attend to Will, but to make sure he has a reason to go on living. Given that Will’s life before his run-in with the motorcycle was always lived on the edge – the adrenaline junkie, experience gathering, handsome man with a gorgeous girlfriend – makes it tough for him to see the point in living anymore. He wants to terminate his life willingly and Lou’s job is to try and change his mind. Whether she does that or not is for you to read the novel and find out. But, it goes without saying that while Lou tries all tricks up her sleeve (and the Internet) to make Will want to live, she falls head over heels in love with him, so much so that her long-term relationship now seems like a thing of the past. That her marathon-addicted boyfriend would see her less and less contributed to these developments, too.
Set in a carefully constructed place with a castle nearby adds to the charm of this English tale. The characters of Will and Lou (no matter how unadventurous, at first) are so neatly described that they stand on their own. There are various instances when Will eggs Lou to live a better life and asks her to promise him that she won’t live in this “bloody parody of a place mat”. Will detests that Lou has little ambition and she is content with the life she is leading not daring to explore beyond its boundaries. While Lou tries to get Will to “live” he persuades her to “live” as well. The difference in perspective of what it means to “live” is rather interesting in the given context.
Me Before You is the kind of novel you want to cuddle up with and read through from the first page to the last. It’s warm, funny, lovely, introspective, and cute in parts. I have loved Will’s character because I can now come to appreciate the kind of decision making that people need to do sometimes. It’s a tough life, this. But it’s not something love cannot cure. The answer is in the pursuit.
I chanced upon this book because I saw the trailer of the movie made on it, which releases in June. Emilia Clarke looks fabulous as Lou. It’s a happy trailer.