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 teashop 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.
“Tell me something good…”
Jojo Moyes‘ Me Before You is one of those novels that you instantly fall in love with – and I challenge you not to be in tears by the time you reach the end! As you get up and personal with the characters of the story, you learn all about their strengths and weaknesses, and you see them change right before your eyes. In her book, Moyes presents us with an unconventional love story between two wildly different people. After Will Traynor is involved in an accident which leaves him wheelchair bound, Louisa Clark is employed to be his carer. Soon, Lou discovers that Will intends to travel to Switzerland and end his own life, so she decides to joins forces with the Traynor family in a race against time to change his mind. In the process, Lou and Will fall in love, but is it enough?
“All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine.”
What is so endearing about this novel is that it isn’t just a love story, rather it is a story of self-discovery. At the beginning of the novel, Lou has no idea what she wants to do, what she wants to achieve – really, who she is. Will challenges Lou not to accept that she is just an ‘invisible’, bound to live within the confines of the sleepy market town forever. Will teaches Lou what it means to live, and she comes to discover that she is capable of much more than she believed possible.
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
“I just . . . want to be a man who has been to a concert with a girl in a red dress. Just for a few minutes more.”
Interestingly, Jojo Moyes incorporates the euthanasia debate into Will’s struggles. At the beginning of the novel, we get a glimpse into Will’s life – wheelchair free. He was a co-owner of a successful corporate law firm in London, he traveled the world and generally lived life to the full. The accident deprives Will of all of the enjoyment of his former life. Confined to his wheelchair, unable to do anything for himself, Will cannot force himself to forget his life before the accident or to adapt to his situation. For him, the memory of sitting outside of his favourite spot at a cafe in Paris is lost forever and cannot be attained in his present state. Despite falling in love, in the end, it is not enough to make Will change his mind.
Moyes does not give a definitive judgment on the euthanasia debate, but rather presents the different views on the topic through her characters.
“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”
This is what Nathan says at a momentous point in the plot, and it is something which Will’s parents and Lou eventually, begrudgingly, accept. Other characters refuse to accept this – crucially, Louisa’s mother. She forbids Lou from accompanying Will to Dignitas in Switzerland, and this creates a rift between mother and daughter at the end of the novel. Ultimately, we can see it is clear how Will’s actions have a very significant impact on all of the characters, and their relationships, in Me Before You.
Despite his circumstances, Will is able to love and to be loved. Because of Lou, Will experiences greater happiness in the last six months of his life – but, he is ultimately unable to bear the burden of life, incapable of “waking up every morning already wishing it was over.”
I find it very interesting that Moyes chose to include this in her narrative, and I believe it adds a greater depth to both the story and the characters. It certainly made me question, and think about the book more critically than if it were just another conventional love story.
Jojo Moyes presents her readers with a beautifully written story full of laughter, sadness, self-discovery and challenge. I really enjoyed Me Before You, and look forward to reading the sequel After You in the new year. If you decide to read the book, I hope you enjoy! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments 🙂