All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Me Before You
Jojo Moyes
Penguin AU
2012, 481p
Read from my Mt TBR Pile of Doom

I bought a Jojo Moyes book some time ago but never quite got around to reading it. My friend Marg from Adventures Of An Intrepid Reader gushed about her book The Last Letter From Your Lover and then this one came out. Danielle over at ALPHA Reader gave it a glowing review and I knew Marg had also read it recently as well. So I settled down over the weekend to give it a go and once I’d finished I was discussing it with Marg, who said she hadn’t gotten around to writing a review for it herself yet. So we decided to do another of our discussion reviews where we talk about how we found the book and a few key plot points or character issues. I’m hosting the first part of the discussion and Marg will have the conclusion today.

M: I am not really sure where to start with this book, other than to say what a fabulous book it was! Also, I really want to give kudos to the people who wrote the copy blurb for this book because whilst you do know what the book is about, you don’t really know what the book is ABOUT if you get what I mean!

B: I agree. It is the most amazing book – it’s fantastic. It sounds like I’m gushing (and I am!) but it has to be said. The blurb is just such a tiny, tiny part of what people are going to get when they read this book. A young woman who has just lost her job and a former dynamic corporate type now confined to a wheelchair – their lives are about to collide. That is barely scraping the tip of the iceberg really. I really want to talk about the characters, because they’re given such depth! What did you think of Lou and Will?

M: You couldn’t help but like both Lou and Will! They both had an incredible journey to take emotionally and they happened to meet each other right when they needed each other. Having said that, the way that Jojo Moyes built their characters up right from the beginning was really great.

At first, when we meet Lou, I thought that we had met characters like her before – the quirkily dressed, quirky character with a heart of gold. It turned out that hidden not too far below that exterior, there was a girl who was struggling to help prop her family up financially, who had never left her home town, who was hiding a terrible secret about her past that had affected her emotionally ever since it happened, and who was in effect stuck in the past. And let’s not talk about her relationship with her boyfriend!

I really felt for Lou’s family. They were a family who have always just got by, facing whatever challenges that life through at them, never really getting ahead. Now, with the economic recession biting, with Lou losing her job in the cafe after 7 years and Lou’s sister looking to improve her lot in life, it looks as though the financial situation for the whole family is just about to get a lot worse.

I must confess that I had to laugh when I was reading about Lou’s room in the family home. When I first moved to the UK, I was lodging with a family that were friends of a friend and I was staying in a room that I imagine was about the same size. There was a single bed and maybe a foot at the end of the bed to the outward opening door, there was a dressing table with a TV and a wardrobe and maybe a foot between them and the bed and that was it! Bought back memories.

B: I loved Lou and I quite agree that Moyes took a somewhat stereotypical ‘quirky’ girl and gave her so much more depth of character. Her vulnerability and that she was so stagnant in life, trapped into supporting her family when really she should’ve been out living her life made me very sympathetic to her. I didn’t like her family quite so much as you, though. At times they were quite unfair to Lou and I felt for her. (I didn’t say I liked them, as I think they helped to keep her tied down to them but I did feel for them as a family!)

It wasn’t hard to find sympathy for Will either. Prior to his accident, which was through no fault of his own, he was the sort of guy who climbed mountains! He was a go-getter, a do-er, not really a thinker and to be rendered a quadriplegic must’ve just been unimaginably devastating for him. I didn’t realise just how difficult it must be to live with an injury like Will’s. My knowledge of people with such injuries is limited to TV and fiction where characters are downcast for a while and then embrace their new restrictions and play paraplegic basketball for the Olympics, or something. Will lived with undeniable pain and suffering every single day. He couldn’t do anything for himself and had to submit to humiliating rituals just to be fed or cleaned. I can understand his taciturn nature in the beginning. I think I’d hate the world quite a lot if I were Will Traynor also.

What I liked was this was more than just “sassy village girl is rude back to rude quadriplegic man and they find understanding”. It’s so much deeper than that. Their relationship is full of the most amazing highs and lows, all the way through right until the very end. They have moments where they connect a little bit and then the next day something happens that sets them back and the process almost begins all over again.

M: I could only think what I would be like if I was in Will’s place, and I am pretty sure I would be a pretty sullen cow too. He had gone from having an amazing lifestyle to having very little dignity, not even the right to make a decision about his own future. He had decided what he wanted, but his family was struggling to accept his wishes.

Will’s mother had forced him into accepting having a companion for six months and that is what had bought Lou into the equation. Will already has a carer, Nathan, who takes care of most of the medical and personal care, but Mrs Traynor is hoping that by employing someone like Lou, she can help shake Will out of his emotional blackhole.

In many ways, I think that Lou did manage to do that, but it didn’t have the result that Mrs Traynor ultimately wanted. There was also a lot of tension between the individual family members, and with Lou as they all struggled with how to deal with what was, at its heart, a tragedy that impacted on all of their lives.

You would have thought that there would have been more than enough drama for the characters to deal with, but Moyes continued to add more and more layers of complexity to the story by doing things like bringing Will’s old girlfriend into the story, and by expanding on the marital difficulties that faced his parents. She also managed to add those additional layers to Lou’s own story by expanding her horizons with Will’s help, having her face her past and to be a bit more assertive in dealing with her family, particularly her sister.

****

This ends my part of the review – pop over to Marg’s blog and read the rest of the post here.

Book #78 of 2012

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