Jojo Moyes – “Me Before You” (Reading challenge – A romance)

             me-before-you-1   A romance book was not easy to pick. I mean, there are some good romances out there – Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, or Jane Eyre – but I’ve already read them. And nowadays “a romance” brings an image of a “Nora Roberts sort of book” to my mind. I know it’s not fair, but what can I do. A good, background love thread is much needed in any book, but a whole book about love? Nope, not for me.

                But then there came out a movie, Me Before You. Okay, I’m shallow enough to get interested in it only because of Sam Cafflin. Ever since The Hunger Games I’ve found him hot. They couldn’t have picked a better Finnick Odair, in my opinion. So, I watched the trailer of Me Before You, and it managed to make me laugh. I went to see the movie, and it managed to make me both laugh and cry. Fortunately, it wasn’t just about Sam anymore. It’s a chick flick, I’ll admit it, but it’s funny and cute, and honest and moving, and actually pretty smart. And Emilia Clark is brilliant. I’ve never seen anyone with so many face expressions. She’s the best choice to play Louisa Clark, hands down. The rest of the cast – Camilla especially – were also great. And the music. Not Today or A Little Unsteady woke up a romantic in me. The one I thought I left behind in childhood.

                But enough about the movie. Okay, yes, it’s  “the wrong order” – movie first, then the book, but it happens so many times with me recently, that I think the rule “book first, then the movie” actually has stopped applying. One way or another, the book Me Before You is a bout Louisa Clark, sort of “a girl next door” protagonist. She’s funny, nice, chatty, very kind, but not so bright. Doesn’t have much ambition, and actually likes working in a café, where she has spent the last 6 years. She lives in a small, English town, and doesn’t have any special desire to go anywhere else. Will, on the other hand, used to be very active, jumping with a parachute, going to different parts of the world and enjoying his life to the fullest. Until a motorcycle accident left him almost totally paralyzed “from head to foot.” He can move one of his hands a little, and is able to move his head and use his brain. Other than that, he’s confined to the wheelchair.

                So, Louisa loses her job and goes to work as Will’s caretaker, despite having no experience. At first, they dislike each other, but soon they fall in love. Obviously. But, in spite of this predictable thread, the book is still worth reading. It’s not only about love, but mostly it’s about changing for the better because of another person. It’s about how Will changes Lou and helps her. She wants to help him understand that his life is still worth-living, but at the end it was him who saves her. He showes her she could do anything she wants, and be anyone she wants. He challenged her, and encouraged her and gave her a chance to grow, to develop into “a whole new person.”

                I don’t think I could get off writing about Me Before You without touching the subject of “suicide”/”euthanasia” – call it whatever you like. So, at the end, Will goes on with his initial plan and goes to Switzerland to end his life on his own terms. I never felt it neither watching the movie, not reading the book, but this proved to be a very controversial thing to write about. I read a lot of opinions on the Internet forums that the book basically says it’s not worth living when you’re paralyzed.

                Okay, so I’ve never been paralyzed and I don’t even personally know anyone who is, but I do have an opinion. I may be wrong, but here’s how I see it. The book did NOT say it was not worth living being paralyzed. Louise did all she could to show Will otherwise. They went on a freaking trip, for crying out loud. She was reading all these forums, where people were saying what you CAN do while being confided to the wheelchair. She was making lists of what Will could do. I never for a moment felt that all this was not worthwhile.

                Instead, I kept on thinking how I would feel. I may not be active – at least not as active as Will used to be – but my physical capability was always very important to me. I have to be able to do things on my own. I don’t even like accepting help in carrying a heavy suitcase. I don’t even like being waited on – at the hairdresser or at a restaurant. I literally just want to go to the kitchen and bring my food myself, so that nobody would have to do anything for me. My ability to walk long distances has always made me comfortable and somehow has always made me feel safe. Next to reading, listening to music and playing guitar, walking is the thing I couldn’t live without.

                Now, add to this a man who was really fond of trying everything in his life. And the chronic pain, and constant fear of pneumonia. Frequent visits to the hospital, constant care. Not being able to even wash himself. I guess different people react differently, but I would be completely devastated. I would probably fall into deep depression. And that’s how Will felt (at least I imagine so). So, even though he did love Louisa, it wasn’t enough. He wasn’t the man he used to be, and he felt he could never be that man again. So, after all, it was his choice to end this life. Some people can be content with reading books, and listening to music, and whatever else he did. Some people have enough strength to fight and I admire them for it. Will didn’t. I think it’s good that such a book exists. I think it was meant to show the world that not everything is black and white. That sometimes we have to let the people we love go, if it’s what they want/need. That it’s their choice, and we can only be there for them and make the time they have great. Love them while they’re with us, and remember them when they’re gone.

 

me-before-you-2Okay, that was a little too much focus on this. Let’s come back to the book. It’s written in first person narration (most of it), mostly from the point of view of Louisa, but sometimes switching to other characters. Usually I like hearing voices of many characters on the book, but here somehow it felt out of place. Maybe because those fragments were very short, and as a result, seemed unnecessary. Or maybe because I was waiting for the fragment written in Will’s voice – and it never happened. Which is a shame, in my opinion. If the author wanted to give other people “a voice,” I think she should have included one of the two most important characters. Just sayin’.

                Another aspect – I didn’t feel it in the movie, but Louisa’s family were really abusive towards her at times. No wonder she thought so low about herself. Also, the book says much more about Louisa’s character than the movie, to the point of showing her in a different light. The movie didn’t give that insight.

                And yet again, it became a comparison of book to movie. So, let’s finish with just the book. It’s lightly written, funny and sad at the same time. It brings out emotion, which is always desirable in novels. It’s interesting, and though seems light, it touches a heavy, important subject. The Will-Lou dynamic is marvelous and is what makes the story what it is. Finally, it’s not only about love, but about relationships between people, about coming out of one’s shelf, making important decisions, and developing as a person. I encourage to read it.

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