I love getting book recommendations from friends, especially from friends that aren’t “big readers”. I always think for someone to drop a book into a conversation it must’ve had an impact on them. Me Before You is one such book recommendation I am particularly grateful for.
Me Before You tells the story of Will Traynor and Lou Clark. Will is a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair following an accident. When Lou – Louisa – is made redundant by the local cafe where she’s always worked, she ends up taking a job as Will’s carer. But Lou isn’t really there to care for Will, she’s there to keep him alive. Lou makes it her mission to overcome Will’s bitterness and resentment by showing him all the things he can still accomplish despite his disability.
I have to admit that early on I wasn’t sure about this book. I didn’t like either Louisa or Will, feeling that they were both caricatures. In fact, many of the characters are like that. Jojo Moyes uses broad brush strokes with her characters, filling in the gaps and adding detail as she goes. Those characters that require depth earn it through attrition and those that don’t remain flat – a background against which the brighter characters move. Although this technique gave me cause for concern in the beginning I needn’t have worried. It may have made me feel initially unsettled but it’s a technique that makes every character distinctive enough without overloading the reader with information. It’s a satisfying way to read and I thoroughly warmed to both Louisa and Will.
Without being any more specific about the story for fear of spoilers, Me Before You tackles several delicate subjects and challenging themes. It does so with an incredibly light touch. It’s not preachy or trite or melodramatic. It’s complex without being complicated, which makes for a compelling and easy going read that is still thought provoking and satisfying. There’s so much to appreciate in this story and I particularly enjoyed the quirky dynamic of the relationship between Will and Lou. It’s this which sets Me Before You apart from a typical chick-lit novel. Moyes has been especially brave with an ending that may not sit well with some chick-lit readers but I appreciate the way the author side-stepped my expectations.
I do, however, have some beef with Moyes and with the book. Me Before You is predominantly written in first person from Louisa’s point of view. However, at several points towards the end of the story the perspective shifts to other peripheral characters. For the life of me, even now, I can’t understand why the author felt this necessary. Some times as a reader I like to feel unsettled, to be have the proverbial rug pulled from under me, but it must be with purpose. A similar technique was used to spectacular effect in Gone Girl, where it has the intention of keeping the reader guessing, revealing the truth of the story through a web of lies. The shifting PoV in Me Before You isn’t for any good reason that I can see and frankly, as a reading experience, it is weird. It’s almost as if Moyes was bored of being inside Louisa’s head so decide to go on character safari. It was random, unpredictable and inconsistent and worst of all it was unnecessary.
Me Before You is still a wonderful story and a very enjoyable read. There’s a lot in the book to like and, as a writer, there are interesting techniques in use that set the book apart from others in the genre. I’m very much looking forward to reading the follow up – After You.
Have you read Me Before You? Did you enjoy it? How does it compare with other books you’ve read?