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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Book Club: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Get swept off your feet by this gloriously heart-warming story about friendship, fame and falling in love.

BillyAndMeBookCover_Review

Sophie May is the typical girl-next-door. Not particularly glamorous she works in her local tea room, frequented by sweet older ladies, and lives with her mum. That is, until she meets Billy Buskin, a teen heart-throb who breezes into her quaint little English town as a result of his current acting job. Despite an awkward first meeting – and her initial disinterest in some ‘teeny bopper’ who isn’t Jude Law – pretty soon Sophie finds herself thrust into the whirlwind of showbiz that is Billy’s life, and under the microscope from every angle. The question is: can she handle it?

Written by media personality Giovanna Fletcher, ‘Billy and Me’ is a dreamy, charming and overall romantic read. However, if you’re sitting at your computer rolling your eyes thinking that it’s ‘just another’ YA romance novel, all I can say is don’t be so quick to judge. While it’s undeniable that the romance theme runs throughout the core of the story, there are also a lot of subplots, twists, and turns at play, that pique your interest and make you want to keep reading to find out what happens.

While the book’s theme may seem light-hearted at first glance, when you delve a little deeper you find that it’s anything but airy-fairy as, alongside the dreamy idealism of the romance, there are also elements which remind you that life isn’t perfect. For example, it highlights the dark underbelly of show-business and the difficulty that comes with being in the limelight, as well as incorporating strained family dynamics, secrets, lies and even death into the mix. However, the serious nature of these story-lines is extremely well balanced by the charmingly whimsical main focus – Sophie and Billy’s relationship. This ensures that, while there are some shocking and heart-breaking moments interspersed throughout, the book never gets bogged down.

Another thing that makes ‘Billy and Me’ such an easy read is Fletcher’s writing style; it’s really colloquial, making it effortlessly digestible as well as relatable. As a result it’s even easier to become fully immersed in the story, as – despite its movie-star-heart-throb-falls-for-plain-Jane narrative – it’s not too far removed from reality. The characters are fleshed out, three-dimensional and well written, and because of this you really can’t help but fall in love with them.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Billy and Me’ and, in truth, it wasn’t long into the book that I was completely captivated. By the time I’d finished reading, I found that I’d become really invested in the story and the characters – you can’t help but root for them and want them to succeed.

It’s a great, gorgeous read about life and love. About finding your feet and figuring out what you want. About overcoming limitations and breaking free from things that hold you back. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes cute, charming, romantic stories that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel ‘Always With Love’, to see what hurdles Sophie and Billy have to navigate next, and if their love can withstand the pressures of their different lifestyles, distance and life in general.

 

As well as being a writer of women’s fiction, Giovanna Fletcher is also a full-time mum to her two sons and wife to McFly’s Tom Fletcher. To keep up to date with everything she is up to, be sure to follow her on:

Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Instagram  / Giovanna’s World (website)

 

 

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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