Earlier this year, I read and LOVED Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I started recommending it to anyone who would listen. I am pretty sure I mentioned it more than once to Bree from All the Books You Can Read. I never did get around to writing my review though. When Bree finally read it, and loved it too, I jumped at the chance to do a discussion style review of this amazing book!
Bree has the first half of the discussion, so head on over there to read that, and then come back to read the second half of the discussion. Bree's thoughts are in italics and mine in normal text.
And then once you have read both parts of the discussion, head to your favourite bookstore, or library, or your favourite place to download books. Just get hold of this fabulous book!
B: There’s a lot going on in this book really. The narrative is mostly Lou’s but there are a couple of chapters from the point of view of some of the others - one from Will’s mother, one from Will’s carer Nathan and also one from Lou’s sister. Did you enjoy those brief glimpses into other people’s thoughts? Or were they distracting? Would you have preferred the narrative to be all Lou’s or maybe to have gotten a glimpse into Will’s thoughts?
M: I liked the glimpses into other people’s thoughts because it is an important reminder that when things like this happen, it isn’t just the person themself that is affected - every single person around them is also impacted in some ways. I found Will’s sister a bit hard to deal with but I think that she was grieving for the brother that she had lost and found it difficult to deal with the man who was left behind.
As for being in Will’s thoughts, I think we saw enough through how he was feeling and what was happening to him. To be right inside his brain would likely been a very dark place for a lot of the book!
Did you like the other perspectives?
B: I did like the other perspectives and I do agree that perhaps to have been in Will’s head might’ve changed the tone of the book and made it -too- dark. Despite the fact that there are some very sad portions in this book, there is a lot of very lovely light-hearted, beautiful moments. You don’t feel like the book is 450p of tragedy - sad moments with the guy in the wheelchair. And I think that’s quite a talent, given the topic.
M: So, I think we have skirted around the topic for long enough. We are going to have to head into
territory to be able to discuss this properly.
For all that this is a fabulous book for all the reasons that we mentioned above, it is an amazing book because of the subject matter and the way that the author treated a sensitive subject whilst still giving us memorable characters and without getting bogged down in depressing thoughts.
The subject at the heart of this book is a controversial one - euthanasia. Do people like Will have the right to choose how and when they die, or should they continue to live a difficult life for as long as modern medicine can keep him alive? For Will, he has lost complete quality of life. He can’t live the adventurous life he lived before, but it isn’t just his quadriplegic status that has prompted these thoughts., there are also the constant illnesses that he is more susceptible too, regular hospitalisation and the knowledge that things are not going to get any better for him.
B: For me, I appreciate that an author has ‘gone there’. Euthanasia is an extremely sensitive and volatile topic and it raises a lot of questions. Before I read this book I already had an opinion on the topic and that hasn’t changed. I do believe that a person has the right to choose to die on their own terms when faced with crippling terminal illness or a situation such as Will’s. As I mentioned earlier, I had no idea what it meant to be in Will’s position. Not just being trapped in a chair unable to really move from the upper chest down, but the constant pain he faced, even in limbs he strictly couldn’t ‘feel’, the chance of illness, the humiliations, the indignity. Will lived like this for two years and as someone who values my privacy, I can’t imagine what it would be like to require 24hr care. To not even be able to feed myself. As Marg said, Will isn’t just depressed because he’s in a wheelchair and can’t climb a mountain. His quality of life is utterly gone. He cannot even regulate his own temperature anymore. It’s hard to really find an argument to keep him alive at all costs, when he is the one that has to live with what he now is. It’s the people that would be left behind that passionately oppose the idea and you have to feel for them too. As a mother I know that I wouldn’t want either of my sons to die, even if one of them were so devastatingly injured. Because as their mother, I’m selfish. I would want them alive and I would want them in my life. So I understand the dilemma that Will’s family faces. But as a person with beliefs and opinions, I support the right of people to choose for themselves. And Will has had every other decision stripped from him. So I understand why he wants to do this.
M: Like you, I already had an opinion, and yes, I understood why Will sees this as his only option. It must be so heartbreaking for families who have to face this decision in reality. For them, they are hurting to see their once healthy and active loved one in such pain, but then they still would see glimpses of the old Will underneath, so the thought of that final goodbye is so difficult.
I thought it was very clever the way that the author actually kept this discussion until later in the book. Lou had no idea that this was in Will’s mind and so she was busy trying to research activities and outings that would try and make him happier, becoming more and more attached to him all the time. It was a much more dramatic way to present the story rather than knowing up front that this is where the story was going. Even as we got closer to the end of the book, Moyes did a fantastic job of showing the mixed emotions and motivations of everyone concerned but also in managing to give Will moments of contentment, if not happiness.
Jojo Moyes manages to keep the pace of the book moving along at the perfect pace and with a lightness of touch that balances out the seriousness of the subject matter perfectly.
B: The pacing is excellent and the journey is just wonderful. I don’t often gush over books like this! There’s just something about it that I really connected with.
M: I am pretty stingy when it comes to giving out 5/5 grades, and I think that Bree is even more stingy than I am, but we both loved this book so much. I really think that Jojo Moyes is hitting new writing heights as I really loved her last book, Last Letter from your Lover as well.
B: It’s a 10/10 for me. I’ve requested Last Letter From Your Lover from the library and I can’t wait to get to it. I want to read everything Moyes has ever written now.
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.