Loose Women Meets Calendar Girls

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all doing really well and taking advantage of the lovely, sunny weather.

Today I’m posting a piece I wrote back in May, all about body confidence and the Loose Women ‘My Body, My Story’ campaign. I had hoped to upload this a lot earlier and I can only apologise for that – I’ve been so busy! However, seeing as we’re in the middle of summer and the bikinis are coming out in force, I still feel it’s relevant and, as a wider issue, it’s worth talking about regardless. Enjoy!

 

Loose Women Meets Calendar Girls

The stars of ITV’s daytime panel show ‘Loose Women’ lose their clothes for an inspiring body confidence campaign.

How many of us look in the mirror and only see the things we’d like to change? How many of us, when flicking through a magazine, or watching TV, see a model or celebrity and think ‘I wish I had their [insert favoured body part/physical feature here]? Personally, I think far too many of us do, and apparently I’m not the only one.

As we find ourselves in the throes of bikini season, instead of hiding our bodies away, the combination of heat and sun inspires us to dare to bare – and that’s exactly what the ladies of ITV1’s ‘Loose Women’ did. In a bid to inspire ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes, the ‘My Body, My Story’ campaign saw all the ‘Loose Women’ panellists – from Janet Street Porter to Katie Price – strip down to swimsuits and bare everything, scars and all, for an incredibly inspiring photoshoot.

Shot by – rock royalty turned photographer – Bryan Adams, the resulting campaign is a powerfully untouched image of the ladies smiling, laughing and exuding confidence. No filters, no airbrushing, no editing; nor is it needed. These are real women with real bodies, and they’re all beautiful.

During an especially dedicated ‘body confidence’ edition of the lunchtime panel show – aired on May 2nd 2017 – the ladies made reference to recently released images of Kim Kardashian’s trademark behind, which was shown to be full of dimples and cellulite. Kardashian’s reply? ‘I’m just sitting here on the beach with my flawless body.’ As Janet Street-Porter pointed out during the live broadcast, this shows that Kardashian seems to have a good sense of humour about the situation as she, assumedly, accepts that she isn’t perfect and this is the real her. Fellow panellist Andrea McLean also pointed out that the pictures created some uproar amongst the general public.

*NEWS FLASH* people get cellulite, people gain weight, people get stretch marks, people have scars. As you get older your bum is going to sag, your boobs are going to droop – that’s life. I think all too often people forget that celebrities are just that: people. Just because they’re in the public eye with their faces splashed all over magazines, they aren’t suddenly immune to the effects of ageing.

On a personal level, I have a close friend who is absolutely beautiful inside and out, who is also very conscious of her looks and her weight – and she really needn’t be. As I’m sure is true for all of us, she carried a bit more weight during her teens, but by no means anything to worry about. But, after a – quite frankly – ludicrous comment from an ex-boyfriend, she decided to change how she looked. Nowadays she’s super active; goes to the gym, does pole fitness and ariel hooping – and judging by the videos has a core of absolute steel. However, that one comment still haunts her, and she once told me that when she looks in the mirror she never feels or sees herself as attractive; and that absolutely broke my heart. Sadly though, I think this perception of self is true in a lot of cases.

I grew up in the era when size ‘0’ models were very much a thing and being thin was considered the stereotypical image of beauty. This is something I now know can be very damaging as it’s an unrealistic representation which effects impressionable young people. Singer-songwriter Demi Lovato is an advocate for body positivity who has been very vocal about the effect that this kind of thing had on her growing up; stating in interviews that she wants to see a change and be a healthier role model for young people.

Over the years, I do think we’ve seen an increase in curvy, buxom media personalities, and that the attitude is now more geared towards being healthy. As long as you’re healthy and happy you don’t need to be stick thin and airbrushed to perfection. Be proud. Accept your figure. Wear your scars like a badge of honour.

I once saw a quote online which read: “you’ll never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine.” I think that really hits the nail on the head regarding this subject, as it lays plainly the struggle to achieve some impossible image of perfection often presented to us. This is why the Loose Women ‘My Body, My Story’ campaign is even more powerful as it’s challenging that common perception; they’re standing up and saying ‘We’re real women and this is us; unashamedly, unabashedly, us. We’re beautiful too. ’ And that is something to be admired.

It’s one photograph but it holds such an inspiring message, and I think with it being summer and the bikinis coming out of hibernation, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I hope the campaign encourages more people to stop worrying about what others think and to be confident with their bodies. After all, you only get one body, be kind to yourself and love it.

Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story Album Review (Music Is Love Throwback)

Hola readers,

I hope you’re all doing well. As we’re right in the throes of summer; indulging in the warmer, longer days and ice-creams (well I am anyway!) I thought I’d share this #throwback of a review with you. This artist has been a big chunk of my summer soundtrack since I discovered him a few years ago, and his music just makes me think of sunny days and holidays.

I first discovered award-winning country singer/songwriter Blake Shelton’s music back in 2012 thanks to the US version of The Voice. I watched the show for two seasons, the first of which featured Juliet Simms (ex Automatic Loveletter) as a contestant – who went on to be one of the final two – and the second saw ex-Hey Monday front woman Cassadee Pope win the hearts of the nation and be crowned winner, under Shelton’s tutorage.

Being that Shelton was the only artist on the judging panel that I hadn’t heard of – the line up at the time being completed by Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine, R’n’B singer/songwriter Cee Lo Green and pop powerhouse Christina Aguilera – I was instantly curious to check out his music. And I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

From the summer sunshine vibe of ‘Honey Bee’, and the somber, sultry feel of ‘Drink On It’, to injecting his alluring country drawl into Dave Barnes’ ‘God Gave Me You’, it’s clear that Shelton’s distinctive vocals are strong, bold and somewhat seductive. It’s no surprise that his work is revered within the country music industry – I instantly fell in love.

Another thing that immediately struck me about Shelton, is his ability to connect with the music and tell a story in an amazingly moving way. You can see this in multiple tracks of his including, romantic love stories ‘Over’ and ‘Austin’, as well as ‘Over You’; a track Shelton co-wrote with his ex-wife Miranda Lambert about the death of his brother – which she lends her vocals to. The song was also covered by ex-Hey Monday frontwoman Cassadee Pope during her time on NBC’s The Voice, which I’ve featured in a previous blog post.

I was going to include them in a ‘Tracks I’m Loving’ at the time, but the more songs I discovered I thought it could come across a bit artist-heavy. So, I decided to save them for a ‘One to Watch’, However, I didn’t think that was quite fitting as Shelton is an established artist in his own right as opposed to up-and-coming.

With his album ‘Based On A True Story’ on the horizon at the time, I jumped straight on ITunes and downloaded it. I then went on to review the album for a university project. At the time I didn’t see the point in duplicating posts across both sites, especially since I was trying to promote them both separately. However, I’ve since had to make the decision to close my other site (you can read about the reason for that here) so I thought uploading it here was way overdue.

 

 

Blake Shelton: Based On A True Story (Album Review)

bs-album-cover

American country artist Blake Shelton released his new album ‘Based on a True Story’ in March this year. Lead single ‘Sure Be Cool If You Did’ reached number one on the country airplay chart after being premiered on New Year’s Day, and was released on ITunes in January.

His eighth studio album is an authentic country album, complete with that trademark drawl that sounds like drizzling honey; smooth and effortless. With the playful chant ‘red red red red red red redneck’, album opener ‘Boys Round Here’ has a beat that you can’t help but bob your head to, and tracks like ‘Small Town Big Time’ are a full on ride of infectious fun; vibrant, jaunty and carefree, though the effects on Shelton’s vocals are unnecessary.

Throughout there are also moments of sentimentality, with slower romantic tracks like ‘Doin’ What She Likes’, ‘Mine Would Be You’, and the nostalgic trip down memory lane, ‘Granddaddy’s Gun’.

Shelton’s bold twang sounds like emotion oozing out of every pore and the intimacy and warmth that comes off of these songs is almost palpable. It’s a great mix of lively, dynamic songs and heartfelt stories, and is an excellent country album. If you’re not someone who’s usually a fan of country music, give it a try, you may surprise yourself.

 

As always, thanks for reading. Do you like Blake Shelton or are you Country music fan in general? Feel free to let me know in a comment. If you’d like to keep up to date with my upcoming posts come and join me on:

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Music is Love: One Love Manchester

Benefit concert ‘One Love Manchester’ proves that music brings people together in the wake of recent terror attacks in the UK.

Hey everyone,

I’ve been a little bit quiet lately, but if you follow me on my social media then you’ll know that I, like many others, tuned into BBC One’s coverage of the ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert on Sunday June 4th. Held at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, thousands of fans gathered at the charity event organised by pop singer Ariana Grande, to honour and raise funds for victims of the recent terror attack which took place after one of her shows in the city, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds more.

Being a music lover, I find solace and comfort in my favourite songs and will never be able to describe the feeling that can only come from truly connecting with a track, and being able to relate to someone else’s words on such a deep level. By extension, going to gigs is a way of celebrating and experiencing the joy and atmosphere that only a live show can bring. As I sat watching ‘One Love Manchester’ the poignancy of the whole event really hit me, even through my TV screen – and you’d only have to glance at Twitter to see that I wasn’t the only one.

I see concerts as a place of magic, of community, of belonging. There’s always the sense that, whatever you’re going through is left at the door and for those few hours, nothing else matters. Nothing but the music and the atmosphere that surrounds you. Coming together with total strangers but being united in the fact that you all believe in something, you all believe in this. ‘One Love Manchester’ really embodied that spirit, and showed that hate and fear will never overpower it.

Katy Perry’s words at One Love Manchester

There was a sense of strength and resilience at the core of the whole show; the artists playing tracks with powerful, inspirational vibes. From Robbie Williams’ moving renditions of ‘Strong’ and classic track ‘Angels’, to Katy Perry’s sassy performance of ‘Part of Me’, the message was clear: we will not be beaten. We will not be afraid.

Headliner Ariana Grande shared the stage with many of the other acts involved, including coming together with Miley Cyrus for a duet of Crowded House track ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, as well as joining forces with Coldplay to wow the audience with a heartfelt cover of popular Oasis number, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger.’

The 23 year old starlet also joined The Black Eyed Peas onstage for a performance of their 2003 number one single ‘Where Is The Love’. Upon its release the song topped the charts in 13 countries – including the UK where it occupied the number one spot for seven weeks – and is the epitome of the reason for the entire event. Lyrically, it addresses mindless acts of terrorism and asks, where is the love and compassion we should have for each other as human beings; making it as relevant now as it was back then.

Throughout every single act – including the likes of Little Mix, Niall Horan, Pharrell Williams, and Liam Gallagher – the 50,000 strong crowd sang, danced, and cried along to every single word. Many of the artists gave heartfelt speeches and were also overcome with emotion during their sets, none more so than Grande herself. As the night drew to a close, the young talent welcomed all the artists to the stage and thanked them for being involved, before launching into a heart-wrenching performance of her track ‘One Last Time’ – giving a goosebumps-inducing meaning to the song.

I have a huge amount of respect for Ariana Grande for organising the event and to all the artists who took part in some way, the entire concert overflowed with emotion and the love hung thick in the air – whether you were there or watching at home. Grande ended the night with a powerful version of ‘Over The Rainbow’, a beautiful moment that saw her become tearful. As she thanked and told the audience she loved them, it was evident that she herself is still deeply affected by what happened two weeks ago, but her spirit in organising the show and carrying on in spite of that is undisputedly endearing.

There is absolutely no denying the poignancy of the show as a whole, and of live music in general. To be so wrapped up in a song, to be able to scream the words at the top of your lungs because it means so much to you; and then to hear hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing, for the same reason is an amazingly moving feeling. The beautifully haunting sound of all the voices blending into one is truly something to be experienced and, in this particular incidence, knowing the reasons behind One Love Manchester: paying tribute to those who were lost or injured in the attack, you couldn’t not be moved by it.

Did you catch ‘One Love Manchester’ on BBC One last Sunday? What did you think of the show? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 🙂

Tracks of the Month – March/April

Hola readers,

I hope you’re all doing really well; today I’m going to share my tracks of the month with you. The eagle-eyed among you may’ve noticed that I didn’t post one of these last month, and that is for two main reasons:

#1. Most of what I was listening to I’d already done previous reviews on, and…
#2. Let’s be honest, after its release on March 3rd, Ed Sheeran’s new album Divide was pretty much all I was listening to for weeks afterwards. (I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to review it yet!)

There have been a few songs that fell through the cracks over the last few months though, so I’ll include them too and go from the less, to the more recent tracks.

 

Little Mix – Touch (Ed Sheeran Cover)

As part of Radio One’s Live Lounge session, man of the moment, Ed Sheeran turned his attention to Little Mix’s ‘Touch’, taken from their new album ‘Glory Days’. Released online on Feb 21st, Sheeran’s acoustic-sounding cover also includes some soulful backing vocals; the stripped back arrangement giving the track a whole different – much more raw – feel. Seriously, is there anything this man can’t make sound infinitely better?

 

Stevie P, Sketch and Jack Holding

(Also) way back in late February, Rap/rock duo Stevie P & Sketch dropped a rough phone recording of an – as yet untitled – track on Sketch’s YouTube channel ‘Sketch TV’. Along with fellow singer-songwriter Jack Holding on guitar (as well as providing backing vocals) the trio jam out the song in a really raw, acoustic kind of way – even down to Sketch getting a beat going on his shoe! As is their style, the verses comprise of back and forth rap vocals, while the chorus incorporates some beautifully haunting vocal harmonies. The stripped back arrangement gives it a certain charm whilst adding even more of a sense of honesty; it doesn’t need to hide behind complex instrumentals, it makes an impact –perhaps even more so – without.

*I know it’s not a full track or official single or anything but I did just want to give it an honourable mention as it is beautiful.

To see my reviews of Stevie & Sketch’s previous tracks, click here.

 

Katherine McNamara – Chatter

Released three years ago as part of the soundtrack to Cartoon Network original movie Contest, ‘Chatter’, is the theme tune for any school underdog, outcast or ‘weird kid’. Sung by actress Katherine McNamara (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Shadowhunters), who also stars in the film, the song is almost like a helping hand letting you know that someone is listening. It’s an insanely catchy slice of pop, featuring some brilliantly encouraging lyrics (“words only hurt when you let them matter, don’t let them matter, it’s only chatter,”) and is definitely one of those songs that I wish fifteen year old me could’ve known.

 

Talia Mar – In The Day

After seeing upcoming singer-songwriter Talia Mar live, and reviewing her debut single ‘Stolen’, at the tail-end of last year I’ve been curious to hear more of her material. And, as luck would have it, the emerging talent unveiled follow-up single ‘In The Day’ online in late March. The self-produced electro-R&B track tells the story of what it’s like being the ‘other woman’ in a relationship, complete with a brooding vibe drenched in shadowy undertones – giving it an almost haunting quality. Mar’s powerhouse vocals are faultless throughout; the track really showcases her range as she glides through bold lower notes and drops in her pitch-perfect falsetto to accent certain phrases, giving it a really beautiful sound overall. If you follow her on social media at all then you’ll know that Mar is also gearing up to release her – as yet untitled – EP soon, so I’m really interested to get my hands on that and hear more of her songs. If they’re anything like the ones she’s dropped so far, the EP’s going to be absolute fire.

To see my review of Talia Mar’s debut single Stolen, click here.

 

Another song I’ve been listening to a lot is this acoustic version of ‘Eyelids’ by American trio PVRIS – or Paris to you and me. I’m not going to say too much about it as I included the full version of the song in my Jan/Feb ‘Tracks of the Month’ but, again, I did want to give it an honourable mention as I absolutely love it.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen, if you haven’t already, and if you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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One To Watch: Ruelle

Never heard of American singer-songwriter Ruelle? Well, if you watch TV, chances are she’s been right under your nose this whole time.

ruelle

Meet Ruelle, an electronic-pop artist based in Country music capital, Nashville Tennessee. If you’re sitting there thinking ‘I’ve never heard of her’, think again, because – if you watch a lot of film and TV – you’ve probably heard her music without even realising it.

Having released two band-led indie/pop albums under her real name Maggie Eckford, a change came when she began writing music for TV/Film. Noting a very different sound to her previous offerings, she chose to unleash this different musical direction under new moniker, Ruelle. This project sees her take on a darker, orchestral, electronic sound, comprising of swelling dark undertones and melodic, catchy choruses.

It’s this dramatic aesthetic that has seen her music featured on multiple popular television shows including: ‘Revenge’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and Netflix original series ‘Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments’. Her track ‘Take It All’ also featured in the season seven trailer for ‘The Walking Dead’.

At its core, Ruelle’s music is a very beat-driven, electronic sound drenched in a shadowy, haunting vibe. This, coupled with the epic, explosive choruses, works to create a sense of urgency and anticipation throughout. This edgy feel is then lifted by Ruelle’s distinctively light, yet strong, vocals – giving it an almost ethereal quality.

 Tracks such as ‘Invincible’, ‘Live Like Legends’, and – the epic-sounding theme to the Shadowhunters series – ‘This Is The Hunt’, are quietly menacing with boldly explosive choruses. Contrastingly, the dreamy, romantic sounds of ‘Storm’, ‘War of Hearts’ and, airy piano-led ballad, ‘I Get To Love You’, show more of a delicate side to Ruelle’s sound whilst still retaining that intensely dynamic feel.

Similarly, alongside the obvious cinematic quality, ‘Monsters’ also incorporates a bouncy electronic riff, keeping that almost eerie vibe whilst also creating something upbeat that you can really groove to. Whatever the sentiment, one thing that’s ever present is the trademark moodiness and addictive, charming melodies which ensure the songs leave an impression. It all adds up to something incredibly unique, and makes you want to hear more.

Having taken a break from performing over the last few years to concentrate on writing – after signing with record label ‘Razor and Tie’ – Eckford looks set to take the music world by storm as a performer with this brooding, cinematic sound. After bringing together all of her material written and recorded specifically for TV and film in the form of two EPs – 2015’s ‘Up In Flames’ and 2016’s ‘Madness’ – Ruelle is now currently working on her first full-length album. One thing’s for sure: she’s undoubtedly one to keep your eye on.

 

Final verdict:

Simply put, I really like Ruelle’s music. If you didn’t know, I also featured ‘Invincible’ in my February ‘Tracks I’m Loving’ – and it was really difficult deciding which song to include! I love the dramatic, epic-sounding vibe of her songs and the sense of urgency and anticipation they create; it’s not surprising that her work has been featured in multiple television shows and films, as it lends its self really well to cinematics. I’m definitely looking forward to the full album being released; I’m intrigued to explore her sound more, and to see if all the songs are as addictive as the ones I’ve already heard.

 

Favourite tracks:

Invincible
Storm
Monsters

(click to hear each track)

 

If you like what you hear and want to keep up to date with whatever Ruelle has coming up, be sure to follow her on:

Facebook   /   Twitter   / Instagram  /  YouTube

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Laurrhie Brouns – Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light (Introducing & EP Review)

Ex The Voice of Holland contestant Laurrhie Brouns shows that this is her time to rise.

©Ilse Wolf

Meet upcoming talent Laurrhie Brouns; if you watch the Holland edition of popular TV talent show ‘The Voice’, chances are that name may already be familiar. However, if like me you’re based in the UK – or any other country for that matter – and haven’t even heard Laurrhie’s name before…Well, that’s all about to change.

©Ilse Wolf

The Haitian/Dutch singer-songwriter released her EP, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’, at the tail-end of 2016, having written it herself as well as acting as co-producer and executive producer of the project. Describing her sound as ‘Eurokpop’, Brouns says, “this is a completely new genre that I created myself.” Fusing together elements from all of her influences, including K-Pop, Pop, R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop, she has created something rather distinctive. Brouns also taught herself to read and write Korean in order to successfully incorporate the K into the K-pop aspect of her sound, which can be heard in snippets throughout the EP; something she describes as “forming a musical bridge between the East and West.”

 

 

As soon as you hit play, it’s apparent that ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ has a futuristic, electronic vibe with K-pop accents, drenched in soul. Add in some beat-driven, addictive choruses and an overall uplifting quality, and you’ll get a feel for where this EP is going.

Opening number ‘Taboo’ kicks things off with a lively and fiercely bold feel; Brouns exudes confidence and is extremely unapologetic – and with vocals like these she has every right to be. Switching between her soulful lower register and her chills-inducing higher register effortlessly, it showcases her range brilliantly and sets the tone for the record.

This assertive attitude can also be heard in second track ‘Collective Upgrade’, during which listeners get their first taste of two languages coming together and how those short accents work within the arrangement. Laurrhie’s powerhouse pipes also come out in full force during the chorus – showing the dynamics of her vocals even more so.

‘Rise’ marries a sense of fiery determination with a soulful chorus and inspiring lyrics, while ‘True North’ slows things down a little and plays up the soul. EP closer ‘Astral Plane’ is the mellowest of the bunch, with things getting progressively softer as the record goes on. The piano-led arrangement, coupled with Laurrhie’s vocals, creates a dreamy sound that brings the EP to an end perfectly.

Overall, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ brings together elements of multiple different genres and blends the sounds together seamlessly – languages and all. The soulful, R&B vocals really compliment the instrumentals whilst having the power to stand out, everything coming together to create something unique with bags of positivity.

Brouns has said that through her original brand of soulful European K-Pop she hopes to “comfort, uplift and inspire”, adding “it is my intention that when you listen to my music it will lift you up…soothe you, bring you joy…move your heart and stir your soul in every way, and activate the evolution of you.”

©YoSoyVideo

As well as the EP, Brouns also has some high-profile performance experience under her belt, including multiple performances at the Amsterdam Arena – in front of 50,000 people, no less – and participating in a club tour across the Netherlands, which saw her share the stage with soulful R&B powerhouse Emeli Sande and Bob Marley’s band The Wailers. In 2012, she also went on to become a contestant on The Voice Of Holland; her powerful rendition of David Guetta’s dance track ‘Without You’ impressing the judges so much that she had her pick of the bunch. During her time in the competition, Brouns’ sensational performances saw her become a favourite among viewers and dubbed ‘the one to watch.’

Alongside this, she has also ventured into other creative avenues; swapping music for the big screen in – Dutch film-maker Lodewicjk Crijns’ 2012 project – ‘Alleen Maar Nette Mensen’ (‘Only Decent People’), in which she played the character of Shandra. Brouns was also accepted into the National Ballett Academy, where she danced in ‘Die Zauberflote’ (The Magic Flute.)

So, what’s next for Laurrhie Brouns? Recently billed by – UK Blog Awards 2017 nominee – Liquid Entertainment Online as their ‘Verge of Stardom’ artist, her talent has been compared to the likes of household names Adele, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys, but with a unique twist. All of this begs the question: how is she not a mainstream artist, gaining regular radio-play and a well-deserved spot amongst the big names in the industry? I could see her sitting quite comfortably alongside the likes of Emeli Sande – an influence you can hear in her vocals. One thing’s for sure though, I can predict only great things for this amazingly talented lady.

 

Favourite tracks:

Taboo
Rise

 

If you’re curious to hear more of Laurrhie’s distinctive sound, you can keep up to date a number of different ways:

Facebook    Twitter    YouTube    Instagram

As well as through her official Website.

‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ is available now from online downloading and streaming services.

 

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Book Club: Me Before You By Jojo Moyes

The heart-warming story of two people who overcome their own reservations, forming an unlikely friendship under tragic circumstances

Lou Clarke is comfortable. Comfortable with living at home with her parents in their little town, comfortable with her passionless relationship with fitness-obsessed boyfriend Patrick, comfortable with her stable job at local café The Buttered Bun, comfortable with her routine. But, that’s all about to change.

Lou’s world is turned upside down when she loses her job, forcing her out of her comfort zone and away from everything she knows. Conscious of the fact that she is relied on financially – and after multiple disheartening trips to the job centre – Lou reluctantly agrees to take on a six month role as carer to a quadriplegic man.

As far as he was concerned, Will Trainor had it all: a high-powered, high-paid city job, a hot girlfriend, and a bright future. He loved to travel and indulge in high-octane hobbies – a regular adrenaline junkie. However, an unfortunate accident leaves the handsome hot-shot wheelchair bound; left to rely on a host of other people for the most basic of daily needs.

Trapped inside his own body, and a shadow of his former self, Will becomes increasingly desperate – feeling as though he’s lost everything. But, little do either of them know that what they come to find in each other will change them both in different ways, for the better.

I absolutely fell in love with Jojo Moyes’s story of love and loss and, having earned the accolade of New York Times bestseller, I’m not the only one. First published in 2012, ‘Me Before You’ has also been adapted into a film, starring Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Love Rosie) and Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones.) It’s a heart-warming, romantic and heart-breaking story – you’ll definitely need a box of tissues handy! However, despite this, there are also some lighter moments of comedy nestled throughout, in the form of will’s dry, sarcastic sense of humour and witty one-liners.

Throughout the course of the story, you see both the main protagonists grow, albeit in different ways. Readers see Lou coming out of her shell and broadening her horizons, becoming increasingly confident in her character and ability. We also discover, through a series of flashbacks, that Lou has had her own trauma which she has been quietly contending with for years, after an ill-advised escapade with some drunken strangers. Following a public panic attack, Lou opens up to Will who helps her accept that she was not to blame for what she went through. As she flourishes, she outgrows the stagnant baggage of her old life – moving forward.

As a character, readers experience and get to know Will through the eyes of Louisa. However, throughout the story are able to piece together, and get a feel for, Will’s background and life before that fateful accident. When Will meets Louisa he has become desolate and tries to push her, as well as everyone he knows, away; desperately frustrated by his circumstances. Slowly though, he becomes enchanted by Lou’s quirky personality and softens towards her, opening both of them up to an unexpected friendship which sees him become brighter and somewhat happier.

Will is keen to educate Lou and slowly, eases her out of the little bubble she has created for herself, showing her that there is more to life than she knows. He has seen and experienced more than she has, and now that he is physically unable, wants her to make the most of her life because she can – urging her to “just live well, just live.”

Spending a lot of time in close proximity due to the nature of Will’s condition, the pair begin to fall for each-other. However, while Lou is keen to inspire Will to make the best of his situation because of that, Will has resigned himself to the fact that his condition will only become progressively worse. Already unhappy with his current quality of life, Will decides that this new-found love isn’t enough to override the way he feels about himself and his future – with heart-breaking results.

‘Me Before You’ tackles some very sensitive subjects in a very clever way, taking into account all the relevant and realistic viewpoints across multiple characters – from the understanding to the less accepting. The story is mainly told from Lou’s point of view, but does give glimpses into the thoughts of other characters in dedicated chapters, such as Will’s nurse Nathan, Lou’s sister Treena, and Will’s mother Camilia. Moyes’s writing style is full of personality and is captivating throughout, enabling readers to get completely sucked into the story and its events – resulting in an extremely moving read.

I understand that the story (the film in particular) has received some negative attention, with it being said that it depicts disabled people as being a burden, and promotes that people would rather be dead than disabled. Personally, I found the book to show the harsh reality of living with such a debilitating condition. As a disabled person, I am in no way saying I would rather be dead than disabled – I wouldn’t. However, I’ve had my disability since birth, I’ve never known any different. I can’t imagine how it must feel to go from being completely able-bodied and active, to not even being able to move in your sleep. To not be able to feed yourself, to not be able to go to the toilet unaided, to never be able to have sex again – these are all things that Will is conscious of.

I felt that it was less about promoting assisted suicide and inviting pity, but shedding light on why people may choose that path. Ultimately it comes down to how you feel about yourself and your quality of life, in light of the fact that you aren’t going to get any better. It’s done in a way that allows readers to see all the conflicting reactions and opinions of the surrounding characters, whilst being able to understand and feel empathy for both Will and Louisa – making it all the more heart-wrenching.

 

Have you ever read ‘Me Before You’? What did you think of the story and its themes? I recently picked up the sequel ‘After You’, so I’m keen to find out how Lou’s story progresses.

 

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