You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.
– Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
So I have to admit, I was reluctant to read this novel. Reluctant, I say, because I was sure that it would not live up to the hype and I had heard mixed reactions to the movie. But, I am pleased to say that the novel is NOT the movie and is actually much better, but who can say that they were surprised? And anyways, romance is not my genre but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.
AUTHOR: Jojo Moyes
GENRE: Romance, Realistic Fiction
WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library
RATING: 3.5/5 stars
SUMMARY: Louisa, or Lou, is a small-town, twenty six year old, English girl with no big plans. She lives a comfortable life with her sister, her nephew, her parents, her grandfather, and her boyfriend. Her family’s financial situation is tight and depends on her wages, so she does not have the ability to move away nor can she pursue an education. Personal reasons and secrets also lead Lou to lead a life within a small radius, leaving her with no desire to see the world and no aspirations. Lou is a bubbly, awkward personality with a wardrobe louder than most. One fateful day, she loses her job at the cafe and instead is assigned to be the caretaker and companion Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, ex-CEO, rich man in his thirties. At first the pair does not get along, but as time proceeds, they learn to rely on each other and of course, fall for each other. However, Lou has to reconcile with a deep, dark secret of Will’s that could possibly threaten their intimacy as well as their relationship.
THOUGHTS: I think the issue with my primary reluctance with reading this novel is that it was marketed as a romance when it really is not that at all. This story is all Lou’s, the protagonist, and how a relationship she has affects the course of her life and her personal worldview. I think the main proof of this is the fact that there is a sequel to this book even though (SPOILER ALERT) the relationship comes to an end in the course of this first novel. Additionally, there was no romanticization of Will’s paralysis, and yet at the same time, a real understanding that this romance only could have occurred if Will was paralyzed, and would ever occur in some made-up, fantasy land where he fully had control of his body.
There is something to be said about the fact that I finished this book in the span of less than twenty four hours; the storyline is riveting and the dialogue is witty and refreshing. Moyes’ writing is accessible and easy to digest; however, I found it to be lacking in that it did not have a unique, identifiable style. There are bursts of brilliance, but overall, the diction was not too impressive, which is why I could not give it a higher rating.
That being said, there was no need for fancy figurative language most of the time; the storyline and exposition managed to carry itself quite well without it. Moyes’ style, while not a standout feature of the novel, suits the mood and purpose of the work well.
The management of sensitive topics in the book, such as assisted suicide, is handled with grace. I know that the way that Moyes treats these subjects may have provoked controversy, and I believe that it only makes the work that much better, because in my opinion, the purpose of the novel is not to paint moral issues in simple shades of black and white, nor is it to preach. It is simply a honest reflection of the complexities of life.
The characterization is sublime and I found both Lou and Will to be highly sympathetic characters, and Lou served as a reliable narrator. I loved the imagery associated with Lou’s personality and her wardrobe, I loved the complicated relationships she often found herself, and I loved how she managed to look at all of her character flaws and mostly take them in stride. Will was also very well-written; he was both appropriately dark and yet generous beyond belief at the same time yet very believable.
The background motifs also played nicely into the tapestry that is this novel; of course, there is the classic class struggles between two peoples who have affections for each other, the examination of what a healthy functioning relationship actually looks like, and family disfunction. They do not distract from the main plot and instead, at most times, enhance the novel.
If you are a fan of watching a beautifully arced character grow and if you are a fan of subtle complexities, this is the book for you.