Last night, my book club met to discuss Jojo Moyes’ novel Me Before You. I was the only member of the group that didn’t love the book. I liked the book a lot, but it won’t go down in my personal annals as one of the most amazing, romantic, beautiful, (insert other appropriate adjective here) books ever. Trust me, I am the gushiest romantic on the planet so it came as just as much of a shock to me when I didn’t get all weepy and heartbroken at the end.
Me Before You is the story of 26-year-old Louisa Clark, an ordinary girl from an ordinary family. Until recently, she’d been working at the local cafe in the little market village she lives in in England. She lives at home with her parents and her younger sister, Treena and Treena’s young son, Thomas. Their house is too small; they don’t have much money and so when Louisa loses her job at the cafe she is desperate to find new employment so she can continue to contribute to the family coffers.
Enter the Traynors. They live in Granta House which is on the other side of Stortfold Castle – I presume that’s the posh side. Camilla Traynor hires Louisa as a companion to her son Will who, two years ago, had been in a serious motorcycle-meets-pedestrian accident that has left him as a quadriplegic. He’s a bit of a git.
Circumstances being what they are, Louisa doesn’t feel like she’s in a position to quit, even when Will is arrogant and unkind. Instead, Louisa is determined to make friends with Will and so, of course, that is what happens. Will softens because of Louisa’s friendship; she flourishes because of his. They are both irrevocably changed.
Me Before You was an easy book to read. I motored through 200 pages on Saturday night. I liked Louisa and I liked Will and I liked their story. Although I didn’t agree with the stylistic choice Moyes made to interrupt the story’s predominantly first person narrative to give readers a glimpse into the heads of a few other characters, I did appreciate this observation by Will’s mother:
It’s just that the one thing you never understand about being a mother, until you are one, is that it is not the grown man – the galumphing. unshaven, stinking, opinionated offspring – you see before you, with his parking tickets and his unpolished shoes and complicated love life. You see all the people he has ever been rolled into one.
I am a mom and so I knew what she was talking about. Could I have lived without her insights? Absolutely.
I also took issue with the epilogue. It felt cheap to me. Way, way too tidy. But no matter.
One of the questions posed last night was whether or not Me Before You was a great book. Define great. That’s the cool thing about reading. Everyone’s definition of what makes a great book is going to be different. I am going to have to figure out how to articulate what makes a book great for me and get back to you.
As for Me Before You – it was a very enjoyable book to read. Could I niggle over a bunch of little things? Sure, but none of them really detracted from my reading experience which was totally pleasant. I didn’t shed any tears, but I did well up once or twice. So, almost, Ms. Moyes.