Another one you probably read as soon as it came out because there was so much fuss about it, how could you have not. To be honest, I feel it was that same fuss that put me off a little.
I’ve never been a huge popular fiction reader, nor was I one to go after the “trendy” titles. It might have started as my own unconscious teenage rebellion – while all my classmates were reading Paulo Coelho, I was reading Terry Pratchett; while they were lamenting having to write on a quote from the Bible for our mid-term paper, I was unperturbed because I had already read a large part of “the Good Book” a few years before, you know, just to see how it goes 🙂 I had my own speed when it came to choosing literature.
So when reviews and praise about Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You started pouring in, I was intrigued by its success, but the urge to rush to the closest bookshop or order it online never came over me.
The decision to finally pick up this book is a little undermining, but I don’t mean to offend anyone, least of all the author. It’s just that I started listening to audiobooks a few years ago, and it was very hard to “learn” to do that – my mind would wander while shopping or commuting and I’d miss out on big chunks of texts. Then I’d have to rewind, sometimes I couldn’t be bothered or didn’t have the free hand to do that, so I’d just skip that part and see if I can deduce what I’ve missed. Because of all that – and because, as a writer, I like to take my time exploring things like sentense structure in books I really like – I started choosing the books to get on audio from the bottom of my list. That is to say, books I’d like to have read, but I’d rather actually read something else. So one day I stumbled upon Me Before You on audio and thought ‘What the hell, I’ll just listen to this while I’m running or doing the dishes’.
I’m happy to say that: First, I’m now much better at following the book I’m listening to, and second, that I really enjoyed listening to this one. This was, in part, thanks to the great voice cast who brought the story to life.
The main character, Lou, is faced with a reality most of us never have to face – what it means to be a quadriplegic. When she starts a job as Will Traynor’s care taker, Lou discovers a whole new world of hardship that some people must live with. She also gets a little glimpse behind the curtain of posh society. Lou comes from a simple home she shares with her parents, her grandpa, and her younger sister and nephew. She is forced to take the care taker job after she loses her humble but satisfactory one at a local café. She goes in to the Traynor house with next to no ambitions of her own – not for this or any other job, nor for the future in general. The lack of motivation – and life experience, even at 26 – makes it all the more difficult for Lou to start off on the right foot with her ward, Will Traynor – a formerly successful businessman and daredevil with acerbic wit and little patience for anyone.
If you’ve already read the blurb, you know it’s a love story. I don’t mean to sound jaded, but we all knew what’s about to happen with Lou and Will, so there weren’t many heart palpitations for me on that account. There weren’t any real twists or surprises, but that does not mean it was a bad or simple story, not at all. Jojo Moyes turns attention to something much more important than having to deal with a grouchy boss or even falling in love with him.
It was very much engaging to follow along as Lou learns how to deal with her new responsibilities, balancing her ordinary but demanding personal life, learns a lot about quadriplegia and, mostly, learns how to work Will. It’s a book well researched and well written. There are a couple of subplots that give more dimentions to the characters and touch on social issues at the same time.
There are several hard choices put in front of Lou, and she comes out a little bit stronger on the other side of each one. I enjoyed the character development, and there were a few moments that were pure fun. I did start off disliking Lou, even being annoyed by her – she came across petulant and stupid in the first few chapters but, thankfully, that was phased out later on. The ending was quite clear early on, even if there was a short moment when I wished there might be a twist to it.
I’ve read a lot of praise and teary comments about this book online, but I’m afraid I will not be joining the club with this one either. Looking back at the book, I did enjoy it, and I think it was very well written, but it’s still a poplit book that neither gave me a pause, nor a big lump in the throat. It’s OK if you want to call me cold or a cynic because of that, I guess I might be. Me Before You is a good story about love, life, compassion, and companionship that I would gladly leaf through on any sort of vacation, but it’s not a great story that would stay with me for a long time.