The Independent on Sunday says Me Before You is ‘A novel that demands an afternoon on the sofa with a fistful of tissues.’ Well thanks to a bad cold that’s exactly how I came to find myself reading it, only instead of a fistful of tissues it was a whole Andrex toilet roll. Classy I know. And unfortunately for my now very sore nose, it wasn’t the quilted type!
Lou Clark is 26 and lives at home in a four bed semi with her working class parents, her granddad, younger sister Treena and her five year old nephew Thomas. She’s been going out with her fitness fanatic boyfriend Patrick for five years and enjoys working in the local café The Buttered Bun. She knows how many steps, 158 to be exact, there are between the bus stop and home. Her life is simple, dull but simple.
Out of the blue Lou is made redundant from the café where she works and, as money is tight and her dad is constantly under threat of being made redundant, she’s forced to take a temporary job for a maximum of six months as a carer to a young male quadriplegic. Once confirmed there’s no bottom wiping involved Lou reluctantly agrees to take it.
Before the accident, Will Traynor was a high flier in the city but now he’s confined to a wheelchair and requires twenty-four-hour care, mostly by trained nurse Nathan. Lou has been hired to mainly keep him company and help him with food and drink and generally see he comes to no harm.
Will is trapped in a wheelchair unable to enjoy the full and energetic life he had before the accident nearly two years ago. Lou is also trapped. Living at home with her wonderful but slightly mad family, she’s the butt of everyone’s jokes and forever in the shadow of her younger more intelligent sister. She occasionally escapes to The Kings Head with boyfriend Patrick for the Hailsbury Triathlon Terrors meetings where they all sip mineral water or check the sweetener ratios of their Diet Cokes while discussing their latest running times. Personally I’d have spiked Patrick’s high energy drink with laxatives to help him along the way to achieving a new personal best!
Will is upper class and ignores Lou most of the time or when he does acknowledge her he’s rude and obnoxious. As the job is slightly more appealing than working in the chicken processing factory and the family need her wages, Lou decides to make the best of a bad situation and stick it out for the six months.
Until that is, she overhears Will’s mother Camilla and sister Georgina arguing about his plans for the future. In less than six months time Will has an appointment booked with Dignitas, a Swiss assisted-dying group that helps those with terminal illness and severe physical and mental illnesses to die, assisted by qualified doctors and nurses.
Horrified to find out the real reason why her job is only temporary Lou leaves. But after being persuaded by Camilla to return and try and convince Will that his life is worth living she returns with a plan.
My favourite scene was when Will comes to the house to share in Lou’s birthday celebrations.
The relationship between the various family members in this scene is both poignant and witty and the tension between Patrick and Will is portrayed beautifully by Moyes.
Me Before You is a book that made me laugh out loud one minute and shed a tear the next. It’s a thought provoking book that will make you think, what you would do if it were your son, daughter, husband or wife.
Oh and please don’t be put off by the God awful cover. I’d never normally look twice at a book that cries out Chicklit but after watching the author (who I follow on Twitter) being interviewed by the doyens of the book world, Richard and Judy, it sounded interesting and I thought I’d give it a go. And I’m glad I did.
Me Before You is the first book by Jojo Moyes I’ve read. It won’t be the last.