I didn’t just read this book. I consumed it.
I am not generally a fast reader but I had this one done and dusted in a matter of days. Everything that was not completely necessary in my life was put on hold (Christmas presents? I’ll worry about them next week, gotta keep going!). I could not put it down – for once I was reading not just to occupy myself while eating breakfast or lunch, but for the sole purpose of enjoying a good story. In a world where we are almost always on the move, to curl up on the couch and just read for hours felt deliciously indulgent.
Me Before You is a romantic novel about a twenty-six-year-old woman, Louisa (Lou) Clark, who loses her job at the local café and ends up taking a position as a companion and carer for a thirty-five-year-old quadriplegic called Will Traynor. Will is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life as a result of an accident two years previously and he has no movement in his arms or legs.
The story is very much character-driven. Most of it is told from Lou’s point of view and Moyes portrays her as someone who is unwilling to stray out of her comfort zone, having lived in the same English town all her life, worked the same waitressing job for years, and been with the same boyfriend, Patrick, for just as long. Part of her nature is outgoing, expressed mainly in her choice of clothing, but she is also quite insecure as she avoids dealing with an emotional trauma in her past. She is both contradictory and immensely likeable; you want so much for her to succeed in the task she sets herself during the course of the novel.
But it was the character of Will Traynor that had me wanting to turn the page so quickly. He has a barbed wit that produces razor sharp and highly entertaining dialogue. His surliness towards Lou and his determination to be unhappy make it initially difficult to be on his side but Moyes very skilfully draws out the reader’s sympathy for him until you yearn for him to show that he is capable not only of friendship but of love. His black humour, present alongside the darker issues at the core of the story, is refreshing and keeps the storytelling nicely in balance.
Girls, this one’s a weepie. I knew from reading the reviews inside the front cover to be prepared for this, but I still wasn’t ready for the emotional impact. And finishing it on the same day that I finished the audio book for His Dark Materials (see previous post: https://susiegmurphy.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/his-dark-materials-by-philip-pullman/) meant that I was a real wreck afterwards – I actually felt exhausted and drained for a whole day and it took a little while to settle myself into a suitable frame of mind for the next book I wanted to read. It’s hard to let go of a story like that after investing so much in its characters, especially when you’ve zipped through it so fast that it feels like you’ve hardly spent any time with them at all. But don’t let the aftermath put you off – we all need a good cry every now and then and this is an emotional ride definitely worth taking.