Book Club: Me Before You
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The reputation of this book preceded it before I ever decided to pick it up and read it. I'm really not one for romance novels so I didn't think it was for me at all and I initially passed it over for other books. However, a friend of mine really encouraged me to give it a try, citing "good writing" as the reason. Well, I do love good writing, even at the expense of a genre that's not usually my taste. I watched the movie starring Emilia Clarke (my Khaleesi!) as well and here are my thoughts:
Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Related post: Book Club: An American Marriage
I'm not going to lie, the love story was predictable from the very beginning.
Call me a cynic (though I prefer "realistic pragmatist"), but one of the main reason I avoid traditional romantic movies and books is because there's usually only so much cheesiness and predictability I can take. Usually, the main characters are so oblivious to what is pretty clear that it makes me want to scream. I'm not a good flirt but geez Louise, even I can tell when someone is interested in me, so I just don't buy the whole "does he like me? I mean he's dropped a million hints but I don't know hehe!" It's annoying and I think writers who create characters like that are doing their readers a disservice.
My rant aside, once I got into the story of the book, I actually enjoyed it, and I didn't see the end coming. Also, my friend was right: Moyes is an excellent writer and the emotions described by various characters in the book are ones I could completely relate to.
Will Traynor lived an adventurous life until an accident rendered him a quadriplegic. Will's mother hires Louisa Clark, a spunky but ambitionless girl, to be Will's companion. Will is moody and mean, Louisa is stubborn and caring. They start to fall in love.
The catch? Will wants to go to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland and Louisa has six months to change his mind.
As I said, I watched the movie after I finished the book. The film made Louisa a bit more spunkier and quirkier than I thought she was in the book, but perhaps that was an incorrect interpretation on my part. Where the book didn't flesh out Louisa's character as much as I'd like, the movie added a part where she wanted to study fashion in school so I did really like that. Book Louisa was quite... well average. There's nothing wrong with average, but I think I was just frustrated because there was yet another female character who had to be told by a man to "make something of yourself" when Louisa was happy where she was. Can you tell, I have a bit of a bias against romance books?
Related post: Book Club: Attachments
That said, this book was incredibly well-written. and the ending did have me feeling rather emotional. I hate to admit it, but I did tear up a bit reading the last chapter. While the love story is predictable, the unconventional setting was quite fresh and helped me see the circumstances in a new way. I did hear there were criticisms against this book and film for the subject of euthanasia, and while I could see why that exists (it's a very sensitive subject), I think in the context of the story it wasn't completely warranted. Many disability groups objected over the fact that Will wanted to end his life due to his quadriplegic status. These groups were concerned that the message the book was sending was that such a life is not worth living. I don't think that's what the book does at all. I think the heart of this novel is whether such people have a right to die if they wish to, not whether or not that a life in any form is worth living.
Have you read this book? What was your take on it?