ME BEFORE YOU by JOJO MOYES – book review

ABOUT TUE BOOK

Me Before You is a romance novel written by Jojo Moyes. The book was first published on 5 January 2012 in the United Kingdom. A sequel titled After You was released on 24 September 2015 through Pamela Dorman Books. A second sequel, Still Me, was published in January 2018. 

Pages: 480

CHARACTERS

Louisa Clark – a 26-year-old woman who is creative, talented, and funny but underestimates herself and has few ambitions. Her life changes when she begins working as a caretaker for a paralysed man. Over time, she learns to harness her capabilities and step out of her limited comfort zone.

William (Will) Traynor – a 35-year-old  man who became quadriplegic after being hit by a motorbike. He is intelligent and wealthy, but his impairment has left him moody, angry, and bitter. Unable to accept never being the active and adventurous man he once was, he wants to end his life.

Camilla Traynor – Will’s mother who has a strained relationship with her son.

Steven Traynor – Will’s father who was mostly absent from his children’s lives.

Katrina (Treena) Clark – Louisa’s younger sister who is a single mother to son Thomas.

Patrick – Louisa’s boyfriend who works as a personal trainer. He is obsessed with sports and diet.

Nathan – Will’s nurse and caretaker who is also his friend.

Bernard Clark – Lou’s father, worked as a furniture craftsman before being laid off and ultimately works maintenance for the castle

Josephine – Lou’s mother, who spends her days caring for Thomas, Treena’s son, and cleaning

Alicia Dewar – Will’s ex-girlfriend who marries his colleague, Rupert. She is beautiful and delicate, but lives her life according to the standards of upper society.

Rupert Freshwell – An old friend of Will’s from work. He marries Will’s old girlfriend, Alicia.

SUMMARY

Twenty-six-year-old Louisa Clark lives with her working-class family. Unambitious and with few qualifications, she feels constantly outshone by her younger sister, Treena, an outgoing single mother. Louisa, who helps support her family, loses her job at a local café when the café closes. She goes to the Job Center and, after several failed attempts, is offered a unique employment opportunity: help care for Will Traynor, a successful, wealthy, and once-active young man who has quadriplegia as a result of a pedestrian-motorcycle accident two years earlier. Will’s mother, Camilla, hires Louisa despite her lack of experience, believing Louisa can brighten his spirit. Louisa meets Nathan, who cares for Will’s medical needs, and Will’s father, Steven, a friendly upper-class businessman whose marriage to Camilla is strained.


Louisa and Will’s relationship starts out rocky due to his bitterness and resentment over being disabled.Things worsen after Will’s ex-girlfriend, Alicia, and best friend Rupert reveal that they are getting married. Under Louisa’s care, Will gradually becomes more communicative and open-minded as they share experiences together. Louisa notices Will’s scarred wrists and later overhears his mother and father discussing how he attempted suicide shortly after Camilla refused his request to end his life through Dignitas, a Swiss-based assisted suicide organization. Horrified by his attempt, Camilla promised to honor her son’s wish, but only if he agreed to live six more months. Camilla intends to prove that, in time, he will believe his life’s worth living.

Louisa conceals knowing about Will and Camilla’s agreement. However, she tells Treena, and together they devise ways that will help convince Will to abandon his death wish. Over the next few weeks, Will loosens up and Louisa begins taking him on outings and the two grow closer.

Through their frequent talks, Louisa learns that Will has traveled extensively; his favorite place is a café in Paris. Noticing how limited his life is now and that he has few ambitions, Louisa tries to motivate Will to change.

Louisa continues seeing her longtime boyfriend of 7 years, Patrick, though they eventually break up due to her relationship with Will. Meanwhile, Louisa’s father loses his job, causing more financial difficulties. Steven Traynor offers Mr. Clark a position. Louisa realizes that Will is trying to help her secure her freedom from her family. The two attend Alicia and Rupert’s wedding where they dance and flirt. Will tells Louisa that she is the only reason he wakes in the morning.

Louisa convinces Will to go on a holiday with her, but before they can leave, Will contracts near-fatal pneumonia. Louisa cancels the plans for a whirlwind trip. Instead, she takes Will to the island of Mauritius. The night before returning home, Louisa tells Will that she loves him. Will says he wants to confide something, but she admits that she already knows about his plans with Dignitas. Will says their time together has been special, but he cannot bear to live in a wheelchair. He will be following through with his plans. Angry and hurt, Louisa storms off and does not speak to him for the remainder of the trip. When they return home, Will’s parents are pleasantly surprised by his good physical condition. Louisa, however, resigns as his caretaker, and they understand that Will intends to end his life.

Back at Home Louisa is very miserable and her mother is outraged when Louisa tells them everything about Will. The media and Journalists arrive at the house having been tipped off by Patrick and the family become isolated. Treena then finds a message from Camilla Traynor requesting Louisa to come to Switzerland. Louisa accepts despite her mother forbidding it and flies out to see Will. Once reunited again at the clinic they agree that the past six months have been the best in their lives. He dies shortly after in the clinic, and it is revealed that he left Louisa a considerable inheritance, meant to continue her education and to fully experience life. The novel ends with Louisa at a café in Paris, reading Will’s last words to her in a letter, that tell her to ‘live well’.

REVIEW

If you have yet to read JoJo Moyes’s novel Me Before You, here’s a quick synopsis: The main characters, Louisa Clark and Will Traynor, change each other’s lives. How? Read the book. And for heaven’s sake, don’t watch the movie first.

As for my own take on the novel, the first thought I had after finishing it was “I need more, more and more.” It’s not your everyday romantic cliché – it’s much more than that. The book offers a refreshing, new insight on romance, and every chapter forces you to read the next. When you realize it’s is coming to an end, you’ll try to put the final chapter off for as long as you can. Unless, of course, you’re like me, in which case you’ll stop your entire life in the hopes of finishing the book quickly. If you don’t, then you’ll lay in bed thinking about what’s going to happen next or you’ll be sitting with your family over dinner thinking, “What if Will And Lou do something while I’m away?” That’s what the book does to you – it promises to keep you on the edge. By the end of it, you’ll think of them as Lou and Will, the personable people, not the characters. It’s this attachment that will give rise to the ultimate book hangover.

In general, Me Before You is a satisfying read. It’s unexpected, heartwarming, and even heartbreaking towards the end. The first few chapters may not motivate you to continue with the novel, but eventually, you’ll reach a point where you can’t put the book down.

Whoever you are and wherever you live, the societal problems and ills that are present in this book will apply to you to some degree, which means that you’ll have something in common with the characters, one way or another. A friend of mine even said, “The perfect gift for my friend is a copy of Jo Jo Moyes’s book. It’s a reminder that there’s no such thing as a perfect life with abundant happiness.”

The reality of the book grips you, but the variety of characters make you stay. It’s something the author deserves credit for, especially since each character has a specific role. For example, Treena, Louisa’s sister, is confusing at times, but the voice of reason at other times. She also holds the ability to make her sister feel insecure about herself without even being aware of it. In fact, as we eventually learn, Treena can coax her sister into pretty much anything, and we owe it to her; she talks Lou out of quitting her job and leaving Will.

But, it’s not just the characters that draw you into Moyes’s masterpiece, it’s also the sensitive subject matter she touches upon, such as rape, depression, suicide, and the oppression of women (which is dealt with on a larger basis in the sequel After You). Moyes gives us an individual’s outlook on these problems and reminds us that the victim should never be blamed, we all need someone by our side, and people who are unable to express themselves find different ways to do so.

Of course, at the centre of all of this lies the relationship between Will and Lou, one that holds all the perfect ingredients together: respect, honesty, and humor. The relationship escalates to a point where we’re fooled to believe that everything is going to fall apart, but we’re surprised at how easily things may just fall back into their exact place.

All in all, this book will touch your very core, driving you to read the sequel, which, to be honest, is as addictive as the first book. Moyes masterfully fits a great story about love, friendship, family, life, and death between the covers of a paperback.