Essie Fox's Reviews > Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
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's review
Feb 26, 2012

really liked it
Read in February, 2012

I’ll tell you something good,’ he said, and then he waited, as if he wanted to be sure he had my attention. ‘Some mistakes...just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let that the thing that defines you.’

He is Will Traynor – a sophisticated young man in his thirties who has only too recently enjoyed a highly-paid city career, indulging in all the good things in life, including beautiful lovers and action-packed holidays in expensive and exotic locations. But Will’s whole being has been ‘redefined’, having suffered the most terrible injuries in a road traffic accident. Now a paraplegic, unable to use his arms or legs, Will is forced to return to his parents’ home. And with no hope of ever regaining his health every new day is an agony of battling not only physical pain, but also the mental torment of being imprisoned within his own body.
In the quote above, Will is talking to Louise, a vivacious and idiosyncratic young woman who also still lives in her parents’ home after having become somewhat lost in life when an ‘accident’ of quite a different type stripped her of all hope and confidence. Since then she has worked in dead end jobs until, by chance, she finds herself being offered the position of a carer/companion to Will.
The irony of the story is that had Will not been paralysed then the couple’s paths would never have crossed, being divided as they were by location, ambition, wealth and class. And now, even though Will sees no hope for any future in his life, he gradually opens Louise’s eyes to the possibilities of her own. In return she brings him friendship and joy, and as their affection steadily grows she hopes to try and convince him that life is worth living after all, despite the fact that his mind is set on an assisted suicide.
A cheery little number then! And yet JoJo Moyes also succeeds in creating a bitter sweet romance with many smiles along the way, and without ever falling into the trap of patronising Will’s circumstance.
In Lou, she has skilfully drawn a lovable colourful character whose honest and open narrative will make you fall in love with her. In Will, despite being unflinching in exposing the harsh realities of his pain and disability, we clearly see the man within; his courage and his stubbornness. But perhaps, most importantly, we see Will for what he really is rather than what he is not, and for this JoJo Moyes should be only applauded, for making a redefinition of her own, in not looking upon the disabled as simply something less than the whole – because Will is a complex rounded man and one who, by the end of the book, has proven himself to be defined as the most generous and romantic of heroes. And I cannot help but wonder if JoJo Moyes deliberately called him Will – because Mr Traynor surely has the strongest, bravest, stubbornest will!
If I had to define this book it would be bittersweet romance. But then, I might also call it a contemporary fairy tale – because, as in all the best fairy tales, at its core is an understanding of what it is to be human, along with the vagaries of fate – how that affects love, and life, and death.
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