Being more partial to a good thriller or murder mystery, I was prepared to dislike Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes on sight. And I did. The cover is a soppy, girly pink, more suited to a birthday card for a maiden aunt than a novel. The first few pages are given over to gushing, and I really mean gushing, reviews; to quote:
“Have a hankie ready”
“Didn’t stop crying” etcetera.
I thought, gosh, does this mean, if I don’t cry, I am a heartless brute? Does a book really need several pages of “read it and you’ll cry” blurb to attract a reader?
So, wondering “What have I let myself in for?”, I settled down with a nicely chilled Gin and commenced battle with the girly romantic novel!
Me Before You revolves around a 27 year old woman whose life is going nowhere. She works, has a loving family and a boyfriend, but she is living a small life. Losing her job, she is forced to take employment as a carer to help support her family. This new job acts as a catalyst for a chain of events which changes many lives beyond her own.
Louisa’s new job means caring for Will, who has become a quadriplegic following an accident. He previously led an adrenalin fuelled existence but his life has now changed completely. So Louisa and Will are both leading small, unfulfilled lives but for completely different reasons. Or are they??
The narrator makes frequent reference to Louisa’s age; underscoring the question of whether, at 27, she should still be living under her parents roof. Lou and her boyfriend Patrick have been an item for seven years but, other than sleeping together, there is not much closeness between them. Is Louisa as emotionally fragile disabled Will ?
Moyes does deliver believable characters. Both sets of doting parents manage to be flawed in their own wayand Lou’s and Will’s sisters are sympathetic but are leading their own lives, which in turn emphasises that Louisa and Will are not doing the same. Lou’s sister is more than supportive, almost the oracle to whom Louisa runs for reassurance when difficult decisions need to be made. Nathan, the main carer for Will, serves as exactly that and little else, freeing Louisa from the heavy daily routine of care, and allowing her the time and energy to try and change Will’s life. Louisa is no doubt lovely, but why would you hire her to care for your quadriplegic son rather than someone who has previous experience? Her brightly coloured clothing apparently bedazzled Will’s mother so much she thought “Wow, whoever dresses like this will sure make an impact on my son’s life.”
Louisa arrival in Will’s life and her attempts to make a difference are contrived from the beginning but, this said, it is almost the only action she could take. She can’t or won’t change her life but she can try and change his. There are definite moments of tenderness when the shift in the relationship starts to emerge. However, things don’t always go to plan and Lou has many difficulties to overcome.
Surprisingly, the book did not turn out to be a sugar coated, “love can make it better” tear-fest. In fact, despite my initial misgivings, I really enjoyed the journey made by both Will and Lou, the changes in their lives and the effect their lives had on others. The book has a feather light touch on the subject of being quadriplegic and the impact such disability has on families as a whole.
And yes, I did cry, but I blame the gin!