I’ll admit it: this book left me teary-eyed, sitting in bed with a cup of tea at 2am, not entirely sure what to do next. How could I sleep with so many thoughts buzzing around in my head? We’ve all read books like that but honestly, this one threw me. I didn’t expect such a thought-provoking narrative from Me Before You. That’s not to say I didn’t think it’d be good, but I was prepared for a good old love-fest with a side of tears. What I got was a whole new perspective on some pretty heavy topics, a lot of tears and a side of love story.
Let’s take a step back and start at the beginning for those who haven’t quite heard of Me Before You.
Lousia Clarke: a little on the eccentric side when it comes to her wardrobe choices, a tad zealous in her personality, but in a way you can’t help but love, and seemingly content to live out her days in her home village in England. The story follows Lou, desperate for a job, who accepts a position as a private caregiver to a young man who is a quadriplegic. This man, Will Traynor, pursued quite the thrilling type of life filled with action and adventure until he was the victim of a tragic motorcycle accident that left him mostly paralysed. Now faced with the reality he will never recover, he has made the difficult yet deeply personal decision to end his life with dignity rather than live out his days in constant pain and mental torment, against the wishes of his family.
Assisted suicide is quite the controversial topic and not one that crosses the mind of many whom have not been in the situation nor known someone who is. But I found the author, Jojo Moyes, handled the topic with such a sense of respect that I found myself questioning my own opinion on it. The book brings to the foreground an interesting debate surrounding the decision to die and whose choice it really is. This is a story riddled by class distinctions and family dynamics, but the moral dilemma Will’s decision presents is the root of the story, the thread around which everything else is connected more so than the eventual love between Will and Lou. I won’t lie though – there is certainly a strong reaction from the public regarding the treatment of disability in the book, so any two readers may have entirely different opinions.
The story is quite subtle in the way it draws you in: I found it to be rather slow-paced and yet, I was reading it at every available moment. Moyes has crafted a genuinely moving narrative, supported by the compelling friendship of two very unlikely people and
their connection to those around them. Lou is a standout character – from her very bright clothing choices to her snappy dialogue in conversation with Will. But her lack of ambition and motivation to step outside the constraints of her small English town show us how our lives can be so easily shaped by trauma. And while Will is an utter ass at times, the reader can no doubt feel the frustration and anger he has at his body and needing to rely on others.
While she doesn’t overload you with the medical jargon that goes along with quadriplegia, Moyes hardly shies away from the realism of the situation. There are constant reminders of the pain and mental anguish that go hand in hand with Will’s situation which make it a little easier to understand his decision.
Me Before You presents two very strong messages about learning to live your life fully, whilst also accepting the personal decisions of others. If you have a gap in your to-read lists, I recommend giving this a shot. Particularly seeing as the film was recently released, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin as Lou and Will respectively.
Stay tuned for Sofia’s review of the film.