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Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
Member Name: jeffjen
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
Advantages: Excellent writing, a powerful story.
Me Before You is a book I was given to read and told I must read it. Even though the cover suggested it was not going to be the type of book that I would normally read, I like to keep an open mind about things and therefore was happy to give it a go, although at the back of my mind I wasn't really expecting to enjoy this book. Indeed the last time I was given a book to read which differed from my usual reading material, I must have been one of a tiny minority who actually didn't enjoy the book as it received rave reviews from fellow readers.
I had no previous experience of the author Jojo Moyes, although the cover describes her as a prize-winning author who received great reviews for her former novel: The Last Letter From Your Lover.
Me Before You begins in 2007 with a Prologue featuring Will Traynor in the hours leading up to his accident. Will is a high-flying city worker who also enjoys hiking up mountains and hanging over ravines in his spare time. As Will himself states: "I need to be doing something."
Therefore finding himself stuck in a wheelchair and relying on others to help him with personal care and feeding etc is not something Will can adjust to, as he was never one for relaxing or doing nothing anyway. After a lot of treatment and time spent in hospital he is forced to live back at home with his wealthy parents and as Will reflect on what he has lost, he decides this isn't how he wants to live.
Following the accident, the book jumps forward two years to 2009 and we are introduced to Louisa, a colourful character who wears odd clothes and still lives at home with her mum and dad despite having a long-standing relationship with her fitness freak, marathon-running boyfriend. I warmed to her character right away and sympathised with her plight of trying to find work. The Job Centre find her some work in chicken factories and fast-food chains but nothing works out for Louisa, who needs a job not only for herself but also to help her parents out with household money. So when she is offered the position of carer/companion to a disabled man for six months in his own home, she is not in a position to turn it down, despite dreading what lies ahead, especially when she discovers the man she is going to be looking after isn't the old man she had imagined it would be.
What particularly endeared me to Louisa, was on her first day at her new job being a carer/companion to Will. Louisa feels totally out of her depth and then added to that is the fact Will isn't very friendly and doesn't seem to want her there anyway. I found I could identify very well with many of Louisa's thoughts and feelings on her first few days in her new job and feel the author has not only researched and described Will's condition and emotions very well, but also described Louisa's thoughts and feelings very well too as she initially sees only Will's condition and not the person, which is a perfectly normal reaction. One of my first jobs a long time ago was working with disabled people with varying conditions and I can recall on my first few days in the job feeling nervous and out of my depth too. I found it difficult at first to see past these people's conditions and so could totally relate to all of Louisa's feelings which are perfectly described and enables the reader to warm to her character.
Louisa slowly begins forming a relationship with Will despite everything and I found I was enjoying both characters as they both have an effect on each other's lives that neither of them expected. However, this isn't just the straightforward tale of Louisa brightening Will's life as I initially thought, as along with the happier laugh-out-loud moments there will be times you will be reaching for the tissues too. You will find yourself laughing as Louisa supports Will along with the help of his male nurse Nathan, to what ends up being a comic day at the races, or there's the night where Louisa dances with Will in his chair at his ex-girlfriend's wedding and ends up drunk. Indeed these are just a couple of the lighter moments here which are wonderfully written and show the developing connection between Louisa and Will, which is further highlighted perfectly at a birthday dinner at Louisa's house, which is particularly touching. This is in contast to the scarier side of Will's life as he battles to control pain as well as potentially fatal infections and Pneumonia. My heart went out to Will as he turns to Louisa and says: "Tell me something good."
To say anything further about the relationship between Louisa and Will and what develops would spoil the story and I do find that Me Before You is a very difficult book to describe, other than it really touched me in a way I did not expect, which is down to the sheer quality of the writing and character development from the author.
The story is mainly told in the first person from Louisa's perspective with the odd chapter written from the other character's perspective too, but it leaves Louisa and her feelings and emotions as the focal point of the book which are in turns charming and funny but also heart-wrenchingly sad.
Me Before You follows Louisa on a journey that changes her life forever and what made it special was it wasn't all about the effect Louisa has on Will's life, but also how Will actually helps Louisa to discover who she really is. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I found it difficult to put down. I laughed and I cried, but I am glad I read this book. It is a superbly written, powerful and emotional story.
Summary: An enotional but compelling read.