Me before you by Jojo Moyes

29 June 2016

I saw the commercials for the release of the new film Me before You, and it seemed like a nice movie. Let’s be honest, whatching Sam Claflin for 1,5-2 hours is never bad now is it 😉 Then I realised it was a book turned into a film (as most films are, obviously), and I read a review by Heather B Moore, an author, and friend of mine on social media. After reading her review (see why review are so important 🙂 ), I had to find out for myself what this whole hype was about. And as always, I try to read the book first before ever seeing the film, because in all honesty, the book is always better than the film.

Book – Me before you

Me before You

Me before You

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Review

I cannot review this book – Me before you without giving away the whole story to this book. So if you don’t want me to spoil it for you, DO NOT READ ON!!!

Lou is a little lost in life, with due cause, and ends up working as a carer for Will, a paraplegic who is going to end his life in 6 months because he has had enough of life.

Will’s mum hires Lou because she feels Lou can possibly bring light and vibrancy back to Will’s life, and help him rethink his devastating choice.

At first Lou and Will don’t hit it off at all, but slowly an acceptance develops. This acceptance grows into a friendship, and very slowly this friendship lays the basis for a very deep and profound love. Naturally there is no room for any physical relationship (Will is paralyzed), which gives Miss Moyes the full possibility to develop a real and in depth attachment, without the physical aspect of the relationship getting in the way. This to me was a very refreshing element, especially in a bestselling book aimed at a mature audience.

I read this book purely for myself, and it ended up pulling me in from the very first page. I loved the English setting ( a nice change for me after reading so many American authors this year), and the very well developed characters. Each is unique in their own way in this tale, and it is interesting to get to know their full story as the book progresses.

Me before you is foremost a love story, and that is what the book mainly focusses on, the feelings developing between Lou and Will. That being said, you cannot deny the main theme in the story, Will deciding to end his life.

This for me was a sore point in the book for many reasons.

I read to escape real life. I like to take a moment from my busy life, and escape to a world in which I don’t have to think too very hard about the very pressing, hard worries of life. Not that I don’t enjoy a good heart wrenching tale, a good suspense, or even a book that doesn’t have a happy ending, but when I am faced with a theme that is so very close to my own problems, and enters such a grey zone for me, I find it a little disconcerting to truly call this light reading. This book struck a very sensitive cord for me, and it took me a while to write up this review. As I was reading this book, I kept hoping Will would change his mind. I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors someone in his position must face on a daily basis, but having him end his life was so final, and also so selfish. I kept thinking of his family, and mostly Lou, and how this would affect them, and could not believe he would continue on this path. Ending a life is not a decision to take lightly. In this book it wasn’t dealt with lightly, but it is something I feel in society today is such a viable option. Life is such a precious gift, and to end it is never without consequences. I don’t say this in a judgmental way, I speak from experience. When I was just shy of 16, my father decided to end his life. He left us all in a very precarious situation, and I remember thinking over and over, how could he not love me enough to live for me. So when Lou asks Will that exact same question in the book, I could not deny how close to home this book hit.

To a certain point I can understand Will’s decision, but one must never forget the people who stay behind. This book almost makes it all seem ok. Lou is left behind, but she is sitting on a terrace in Paris sipping a drink reading a lovely letter from Will, and all will be well. In reality, all will not be well, not for a very long time. When you love someone, and they decide they love you, but not enough to live for you, that feeling takes time to work through. In Lou and Will’s case you can maybe put that into perspective as he made his decision long before he met her, but still he left behind his mother, father and sister. They have to find a way to move past that, and get on with life after burying him.

I wonder sometimes when someone is so down, that suicide seems like the only viable option, if one is even in the right state of mind to even see the real consequences of one’s actions. How can you even predict how your actions will affect the people you love? Who is to say that Will’s mother won’t turn into a drunk after his death? She had to give up her job already. These are all things that take their toll following such a devastating decision.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my fear is that Hollywood will blow it into this wonderful, great, “we should all kill ourselves when we can’t deal with the hand life has dealt us”. For me that is not heroic, that is just sad. To me the real heroes in this scenario are the people who have been dealt a similar fate like Will, but have accepted it, embraced it even, and have learned to make their life beautiful. Lou met several of these people in an online support group, and I can only imagine there are people out there, who despite the tragedy they have faced, have picked themselves up, stared life in the eye, and have shouted out, I WILL NOT GIVE UP! That is truly heroic, and really inspirational. I hope the world will look to those people and acknowledge  their drive, their will to live as something to be encouraged.

Note: This book is a fairly clean read. Some of the language is not so clean, swear words are used, but to me it was not so offensive, that I felt I could not read on. That being said, I wish to give this warning, as it is not 100% free of foul language.

Also I feel this book does try to highlight every aspect of the choice of this very delicate subject, and does give a broad perspective. I once again wish to stress that I can’t judge any choice, but can only speak from personal experience, and that has given me a little perspective to how the people left behind feel when someone they love decides to end their life. I think this is definitely worth the read, to give you the perspective of this delicate matter, and will possibly help you form your own opinion.

About the Author

JoJo Moyes

JoJo Moyes

Jojo Moyes is a British novelist.

Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist.

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004.

She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.

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11 Comments

  • Linda 30 June 2016 at 10:35

    Mylissa, how courageous of you to give such a wonderful review and to give people a glimpse of your tender feelings.
    ‘When you love someone, and they decide they love you, but not enough to live for you, that feeling takes time to work through.’
    ‘To not give up! That is truly heroic.’
    We leven in een wereld, waar dikwijls maar een facet van een probleem of een mening uitvergroot wordt. En net als jij hoop ik ook dat Hollywood zelfmoord niet heldhaftig zal bestempelen, maar ook de andere kant, die van de ‘achterblijvers’ niet zal vergeten te benadrukken.
    Je hebt een review geschreven dat blijft hangen.

  • Jennifer Peel 30 June 2016 at 15:18

    Beautiful review. I admit I haven’t read or watched the movie because I’ve been worried about them romanticizing the choice to end one’s life. I believe life is a gift and those willing to keep going despite terrible odds or circumstances are truly heroes. We actually have similar life experiences regarding our fathers and the timing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Laura Johnston 30 June 2016 at 16:50

    Great review, and I enjoyed your honest feelings. I am so sorry about your dad, Mylissa–although I know those words can sound trite after hearing them so many times. My dad passed away when I was a teenager, under much different circumstances. Sometimes the pain is intense and at other times I feel like I’m moving on a doing well, like he wanted me to.
    I read the first chapter of After You, the sequel to Me Before You, and got the sense right off that things are not okay for Lou after Will’s death. The Me Before You book ending was hard for me too, and the choice Will made. It was just so hard to read. Many tears. I also got the sense from reading Me Before You of just how close Will had come to death several times since his accident because of pneumonia. Frustrated with his choice, I kept thinking, he could have just let pneumonia kill him. It probably would have, eventually. I’ve never been quadriplegic though. This book opened my eyes a bit to how excruciating it would be. Still, I would fight for someone I love to keep living just like Lou did! I’d want to make them happy just as Lou wanted to make Will happy. I’d want them to keep living.
    I enjoyed reading these characters’ story; every person is so very different. I loved the characters, their humor and the emotional journey the book took me on nonetheless and I really liked the movie.

  • DelSheree Gladden 30 June 2016 at 17:01

    I’ve been curious about this book as well. Most of my nieces have read it and I suspected it had a very sad ending based on their reactions to the book and movie. That had held me off on reading it, though I had no clue what the premise even was. Now, I’m almost definitely not going to read it, mainly because I also like to read as an escape. I’m all for a good tragic ending when appropriate, but this premise and the attitude you described honestly seems somewhat senseless. I like that the majority of the book seems to focus on developing a deep personal relationship not based on sex or lust, but to have it end like that, to me that’s not the kind of romance I want to read. I do worry that this type of “it’s ok to end it all if you’re unhappy” message could affect young people negatively. There’s so much of that already, that to then romanticize it doesn’t feel right to me. Ending it with Lou peacefully reading the letter and being okay with the way things turned out is extremely unrealistic. Many people go on to live happy fulfilling lives when paralyzed. Right now as we’re on vacation, we’re staying at a hotel hosting the nation wheelchair games for veterans, a whole hotel full of men and women who are making the best of their lives despite injuries and amputations and paralysis and highlighting their strengths and talents. To me, that’s a wonderfully encouraging message. More so than what this books seems to be sharing. Thanks so much for this review, Mylissa.

  • Aubrey 30 June 2016 at 17:13

    I have been wanting to see this movie and considering reading the book. I have been a little nervous about the emotional journey it would take me on though. As difficult as it is to read about subjects like these I think it is so important because it creates a forum where these real life controversies can be discussed. Thank you Mylissa for starting this discussion, and sharing your opinion in such an open way, which makes it safe for others to join in!
    I agree that human life is something that should never be taken lightly. Suicide is difficult for people on both sides of it. Those who decide to make that choice are in pain and see no light at the end of the tunnel. Just as you so beautifully shared, those left behind are also in pain and are left with nowhere to turn for an explanation. I recently heard of stories of people who attempted suicide by jumping off of the golden gate Bridge, but survived. The one thing they all had in common was that in the four seconds before hitting the water, they regretted jumping, and realized that whatever the struggle in their life was it could be solved. To me the lesson from this review and these stories is to reevaluate how we are living and interacting with those around us. Every person will make their own decisions, so the important thing is to make sure that our actions, the decisions we have control over, are full of love and hope. You never know what influence you will have on someone. This really brought home why we should strive every day to respect each and every person and to bring hope and love to individuals. Whether it saves a life or simply makes you glad that the last thing you did was smile at someone.
    Beautifully written review! Great thoughts on some very sensitive subjects!

  • Taylor Dean 30 June 2016 at 20:09

    I read the book a while ago and I’ve been very excited to see the movie. I told my daughter, “We have to go see this movie . . . but it ends sadly.” My daughter said, “Don’t spoil it for me.” I told her that I could not be excited about this movie and recommend it to her without warning her of the sad ending. It just felt wrong. We haven’t seen the movie as of yet, but we plan to. I feel the movie trailer is highly misleading. One would assume it is simply a romance.

    While I loved the book, I was deeply disappointed in the ending. I wanted Will to choose life–and to choose happiness with Lou. I held out hope that he would make a different choice until the very end.

    I appreciate your viewpoint, Mylissa. I’m sorry you had to face that in your life. I see why the decision Will makes would upset you greatly. It upset me too. Now even more so because my father is fighting for his life as he battles cancer. He’s willing to face any type of chemo, no matter the side effects, just to be able to live. He’s my hero.

    Thank you for writing this heartfelt post.

  • Inge 1 July 2016 at 15:16

    Lieve Mylissa,
    Het trekt me enorm aan om dit boek toch te gaan lezen.
    Ik was er even stil van , tranen in mijn ogen en veel emoties kwamen los als ik jouw revieuw las.
    Jammer genoeg kunnen we niet achterhalen of aanvoelen hoe iemand zo een beslissing kan nemen, maar om echt ervoor te kiezen denk ik dat je toch niet helemaal meer nuchter kan denken of radeloos moet zijn, moeilijk om te begrijpen maar vooral mooi hoe jij ermee omgaat. Weet dat jij wel de moeite bent om voor te leven, je bent een prachtig persoon, vanbinnen en vanbuiten, je hebt een prachtig gezin en een voorbeeld voor zovelen van ons!!!
    Bedankt om dat met ons te delen!!!
    We houden van je!

  • Fran 1 July 2016 at 16:53

    Mylissa, thanks for a candid review and your honest thoughts about a novel with serious issues. Your own personal connection to the subject theme of “Me Before You” makes your opinion so much more valuable. Thanks for recommending the book. I agree with you 100% that life is a precious gift. I had a high school male friend who took his own life, which of course came as a huge shock to the community. While he had no physical impairments or disabilities visible to the eye, I cannot imagine his intimate, mental state of being that led him to make such a final choice. Although I am not a book-lover like you (it’s something I want to change!) and I will include this book on my list of reads.

  • Nathan 2 July 2016 at 06:41

    Mylissa, I had not known that about your father. This must really stirr up old feelings for you. I have always felt good things around your mother and family. Anyone who has to parent without a spouse for any length of time is my hero.
    I enjoyed your review and even though life is so difficult to really know how to feel until you experience something for yourself. I do feel that love and families are precious. So worth our efforts to be just a little bit better each day.
    Such emptiness when someone chooses to leave life.

  • Jen 8 July 2016 at 22:08

    I usually have to watch the movie before I read the book because if I read the book first then I almost always end up hating the movie for the lack of depth and connection that it brings to the audience in comparison to the book. I think that any book that can bring it’s reader in on a deeply personal level is a success for the writer. It’s what makes the book worth reading. To be able to feel and occasionally truly understand on a human level the realness of the characters is truly amazing. Great review Mylissa, books such as these allow us to not only examine our very personal experiences on a deeper level but it leaves us with a sense of acknowledgment and understanding of the worth of our own lives. The book, as well as your review, is very real, these things are in fact very much a part of everyday life. The cool part about this, in my personal opinion, is that books like these help us understand or rather question, observe, or realize and acknowledge the impact and importance of our own lives. Thanks for your review!

  • Teresa 10 July 2016 at 07:49

    I had to leave a comment just to tell you that your review was awesome. It was so open and honest, that it has made me look forward to reading this book, despite the spoilers.
    Thank you very much!

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