I think the last book review I did was either a month ago or maybe even two; either way that is inexcusable and no one is more sad about it than myself. I love reading and I love the time out that it gives me and there’s just something about books, holding books, buying books, the smell of books, the worn pages that demonstrate the love of your favourite books- just everything about books, that I was missing. So, in between my university reading and my essay writing and work’s shifts, I decided to just make the time that I needed to plough through my copy of ‘Me Before You’ that I bought ages ago and never got around to reading. (This is definitely not what ‘reading week’ at university is for).
And now, having finished it half an hour ago, I am sat with a mug of mulled wine at 10 to 1 am writing a review.
I’m going to start by saying that there is a lot of hype surrounding this particular novel and so I didn’t want that to affect my opinions but it did mean that I had great expectations and it had a lot to live up to.
The basic plot- no spoilers – tells a tale of protagonist, Louisa, who leads a simple life, living with her family in a small house on a council estate, supporting her boring boyfriend Patrick with his fitness endeavours and works quite happily at a café until it closes down and she has to look for a new job. Her new job entails caring for a paraplegic- Will Traynor was an active and adventurous man before an incident with a motorcycle left him with no feeling from the neck down. Will requires a lot of care and is in a lot of pain and Louisa is hired by his family to watch over him and be more than just a carer, but a companion.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT* though the title gives it away…
Will Traynor believes he has nothing left to live for. He never quite adjusted to his new life confined to his wheelchair and being utterly dependent upon everybody else to do the simplest of things, and requests assistance to end his life and Louisa soon learns that her job, all along, was to show him that life was worth loving.
SAFE TO READ THIS BIT BELOW
This book is tragic, this book is inspiring and despite being hard hitting at times, this book was actually rather funny in places; Will and Lou have a fantastic relationship dynamic, constantly swapping jokes and made me laugh out loud multiple times which I think added a whole new dimension to the story.
Louisa was a good character, despite being hugely uninteresting in the beginning for not doing anything with her life and not wanting to go anywhere or have any ambition, we learn why Louisa is as cautious and as anti social as she is and, honestly, this too was dealt with so well within the book. The topic approached was done so with caution, it was discreet and Will’s wise words on the topic honestly warmed my heart and will stay with me for a long time. Your past does not define you and this was such a wonderful touch to her character, I salute Moyes, it was beautiful.
It was a good read, a fairly easy read, nothing too fancy. My only qualm with this book was the ending.
*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*
I feel that its wrong to describe this novel as a love story simply because the decision made in the end was selfish and hypocritical. I also thought that it might not give the right message; it suggests that life is not worth living, even if you have money, access to wonderful places and activities to relieve you of your chair and dependencies, the best healthcare, a supportive family and a very devoted lover. In fact, having someone who would genuinely and literally go to the ends of the earth with your life in their hands is, in contribution to everything else, much more, if not an awful lot more, than any able-bodied person has in their lives. Will fails to recognise his luck, even when it is abundant. I had imagined a retreat in Mauritius for the best characters where they helped others in the same position but was far too optimistic in that crazy dream of an ending!
All in all, I would still recommend this book to anyone, it is wonderfully written, the controversial topics approached are done so with discretion and wisdom, the book offers food for thought from start to finish and took me on a whirlwind of emotion. Despite being left in tears and utterly exhausted, I did thoroughly enjoy this book and will read the sequel, as it has been gratefully gifted to me.
Book recommendations are always welcome so please do leave suggestions,
Answering/reflecting on the questions Moyes posed to the readers:
My first impressions of the characters did matter but not for long; my first impression of Lou was bias because of being in her perspective, but I found her dull and uninteresting, as I always do with anyone lacking ambition but later learned that she is funny and can be bold when she wants to be and completely understand and empathise with her character knowing why she is the way she is. Will seemed mean and stubborn from the get go but somehow still light hearted, given his condition, he was still funny and made light of the situation in order to alleviate others around him who worried about him and I really admired him for doing so.
Lou and Will come from two different worlds and changed each others’ lives profusely. For Will, he learned about modesty and how ‘normal’ people live, people without privilege, people who know how to sacrifice their own wants in order to support those that they love- something that was also new to Will whose relationship with his family was questionable. Lou tought Will to find happiness in simple things like a cup of tea and a small joke. Will changed Lou more obviously by bullying her into leaving her comport zone, trying new things, aimed to inject some culture into her life and encourage her to live life to the fullest.
Their reactions to their respectful tragedies was both similar and different. Lou never speaks of her tragedy, it simply happened and she buried it away as if it never happened even though it affected every choice she made about herself and her capabilities thereafter. Will, on the other hand, is accepting of his condition but in a pessimistic way so that, despite addressing it more directly than Lou, he does not see the bright side. I was grateful for the scene in which he consoled Lou over her tragedy, however, and his words will stay with me, close to home.
Nathan was a really good character to have around. He acted as the fly on the wall in a lot of ways, knowing the secrets of the family but knowing to lock them away and behave indifferently to them. He cared a lot and loved Will a lot but also had more professional detachment than Lou could muster and was, in that sense, her rock and the voice of reason which was very much needed. He also knew that Will needed a man around, given his relationship with his father, and allowed him to be a lad when he needed to be.
Lou’s family offered much amusement to the storyline but I wasn’t convinced by the arguments between Treena and Lou as it seemed childish for a pair of adults. Lou’s family, however, were always trying hard to make a home and were proud of their achievements, though their reliance upon Lou was never directly addressed nor thanked. Lou did what she had to do with them in mind always, paying for them for months on end, despite her older sister getting all of the credit and praise which seemed unfair given that she did nothing but rely on Lou as well. I was glad when Lou decided to finally make a decision on her own, without her family, when she decided to cross her mother in order to go see Will when he needed her. It showed her final stage of flying the nest and realising that some of her decisions can be just for her.
Will and Lou would not have fallen in love had they not been in the position that they were portrayed in, in my opinion. Their worlds were too different and they wouldn’t have crossed paths or gotten to know each other if they weren’t so wonderfully thrown into each others lives under the dire circumstances under which they were.
In response to the question regarding the ending, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have the right to die under the right circumstances and that those with no quality of life definitely should be allowed to die with dignity without feeling like a criminal. I don’t, however, agree that it was the right choice for Will who was so smart and so loved and had so much more than any average man would have, I wished he had put his business skills to use in the end by opening a retreat for other paraplegics in order to do good and love life and live it to its full potential, as he so preached. Unfortunately, this is not how it ended, but I do understand why it ended the way it did.
Quotes I took away from this novel:
‘Some mistakes have greater consequences than others but you don’t have to let that night be the thing that defines you’ – Will on Lou’s tragedy.
‘You only get one life. It is actually your duty to live it as fully as possible’ – Will on life.