Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Assumptions can be dangerous things; you are probably making one about me reviewing this book right now be it good, bad or indifferent. I admit I make them all the time despite the fact that I know I shouldn’t. One such bookish assumption that I know I make often is about books with too much pink on them, I just assume that they will be my cup of tea. Jojo Moyes latest novel ‘Me Before You’ is one such book I had been intrigued by but avoided due to the cover, yet thanks to a roundabout recommendation of it by Damian Barr (and the podcast of his literary salon featuring Jojo Moyes reading from the novel and discussing it) I gave it a whirl! I am so glad I did as it was a wonderful, funny, touching and emotional read and one much darker and deeper than the cover (which I don’t really think has any relation to the book to be honest) would suggest.

Penguin Books, paperback, 2012, fiction, 512 pages, borrowed from the library

As ‘Me Before You’ opens we meet Will Traynor, a young, ruthless and successful high flying business man. He makes mega bucks during the week in his office and spends the weekend’s mountain climbing, skiing or biking. That is until, in the opening chapter so I am not giving anything away, he is involved in a tragic accident. Skip forward a few years and we meet Louisa Clarke, your average kind of girl who it still living at home in her mid twenties and who has no aspirations to leave happily working in the local cafe, that is until its closed. She becomes jobless and the prospects are slim, until she takes on a job as the daytime carer/companion for a quadriplegic, Will Traynor.

It could so easily fall into the clichéd story at which you may all be assuming will take a certain twist. Louisa is hapless, clumsy and unsure and Will is edgy, offensive and incredibly frustrated. Neither really wants to be there but that is the way it is and so they both meet in the middle with slightly awkward humour. It is this humour, which had me laughing out loud, that makes the book rather special, you laugh at what you shouldn’t but not in a callous way, because as a reader you really care and you really feel the frustration and anger Will must feel being in his situation and the frustration and emotions of those dealing with Will dealing with himself.

The second genius stroke, which was also quite a risk, is the way the story develops and it might not be the one you would hazard a guess at because Moyes throws in a very big, and controversial, subject as we go on and that is the right to die. How it all works out I will not divulge, I would just urge you to read on and discover as it, I think, is handled beautifully. I should state here that I never felt that Moyes had used the subject to ‘shift copies’ and I think that is something that should be mentioned as I can think of some authors, who will remain nameless, who have happily cashed in on ‘moral dilemmas’ – this is not such a book in case the thought had fleetingly crossed your minds and you are a bit cynical like me.

There are few books which you read where the characters walk off the page and you genuinely feel like you have been spending time with them because they are as real as your mates, the last book I read where I felt like that was ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls. There are also relatively few books which deal with a tough subject or subjects in a truly honest fashion, which encompasses the light and dark, the funny and the heartbreaking, and here Moyes excels again (this interestingly reminded me of ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman). The two combined just make for a really enjoyable, emotional and rewarding read. There are also some slight twists and the like thrown in for good measure but it is the relative normality of the characters and the way they interact, good and bad, which also sets this book apart.

Having listened to Jojo Moyes talking about ‘Me Before You’ she said that it could be ‘a career breaker’ and ‘not an easy sell’ as the subject matter which it covers is a delicate one and, in the wrong writers hands, could offend or patronise people. Thank goodness for Jojo Moyes taking the subject under her wing as with a deft hand she makes this a very human story, one which will have you laughing on one page and quite possibly crying the next (have tissues to hand, advice from someone who didn’t). Ignore the cover, read the book. I did in one sitting.

Who else has read ‘Me Before You’ and what did you think? Has anyone read any of Moyes other books? I know my mother has some of them on her shelves but we have never discussed them, should I be secretly pilfering them next time I visit?


Filed under Books of 2012, Jojo Moyes, Michael Joseph Publishing, Penguin Books, Review

33 responses to “Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

  1. I agree with all that you say. It’s very moving and cleverly written.

    • I really liked this book so much! It had so much more depth to it than the cover suggests, I don’t mean that in a snobby way… I’m sure people know what I mean!

  2. I haven’t recovered from reading this yet, stayed up all night to finish and was crying so much by the end. The characters were indeed so real. I think a lot of “women’s fiction” (I personally don’t mind the term chick-lit) is misjudged by the pastel covers. There’s some wonderful stories out there. Yes they are written primarily for a female audience and have a relationship at the core, but they deal with a wide range of issues in an accessable way.

  3. I have kept leaving this one aside due to review book commitments for many months, but am determined I will read it in the next few weeks. I don’t think I’ve seen a bad word about it.

  4. I’ve got this, but not read it. Last year I was given a galley of The Last Letter From Your Lover and loved it! (Definitely worth pilfering). I’d passed it over in the bookshop (as the Australian cover was nearly completely pink and very chick-litty) but this was not chicklit. It was brilliantly written and incredibly sad in places. I still remember the plot in detail (bad books I have trouble telling you the characters’ names a month later).

  5. I haven’t read this book or any other of Moyes’, but I certainly want to go and find a copy now. I had no idea of the story line, because you’re right, the cover doesn’t give a hint of it. That said, sometimes an overly chick-lit cover that disguises a dark book can be a move of genius.

    • Can it? I would love to hear some examples as I would love to find some more.

      I think had I not been told about it via the people I was then I probably wouldn’t have ended up reading it which would have been a shame!

      • Well it’s a completely different theme, but Love Rules by Freya North. Neither the back or front cover gives the game away. Takes a while to get into, but once there there is plenty of food for thought.

  6. chazzard

    I second the recommendation for The Last Letter from my Lover. Well worth a read. I’m looking forward to reading her new book, but don’t think it’s out in Canada yet…

  7. I have just read this book too and I was blown away by it. Did you cry? I did! I have read The Ship of Brides some years ago and I loved that one too.

  8. kimbofo

    Thanks for this review, Simon. I received a proof of this ages ago and wasn’t sure if it was for me. Then I saw it in bookshops with its pastel pink cover and chick-lit font and knew it *definitely* wasn’t for me. Then I see your review and I’m thinking, I really shouldn’t judge books by their covers!! I’ll have to dig it out of the pile now. 😉

    • Have you read it Kim? I would be really interested to hear your thoughts!

      We can’t help judge books by covers, we are meant to aren’t we but one persons chalk is another’s cheese. I will definitely try another Moyes.

  9. Louise

    I also had assumptions about this book, but after seeing how highly it was rated on amazon I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did. Great characters and a thought provoking story made it an interesting (but very emotional) read.

  10. Louise

    oh, and I have ‘Ship of Brides’ in by TBR pile so will plan to readthis one soon.

  11. I have this book waiting patiently to be read on my TBR mountain. I haven’t read any of her books before either but a friend of mine is a fan of hers and keeps trying to encourage me to give them a go. ‘Me Before You’ sounds like a great one to start with.

  12. Livia

    I have just finished this book – it was very moving. Very difficult to read a book when you are crying

  13. Mae

    Just finished this book today. It was wonderful. A friend recommended this to me a few months ago and I wasn’t sure it was for me. Now I get why she wanted me to read it. I kind of wish I hadn’t read it so quickly, I loved both characters and kept recognising people I know in them. I’ve almost found myself wondering this evening if Lou is getting on ok!

    • It is a wonderful book isn’t it. I think it’s, as you illustrate so well, the fact the characters seem so real and seem to walk off the page and live and breath, certainly makes for emotional reading.

  14. Lovely review! I just finished the book now, and it had me gripped. I was expecting the usual cliched ending, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well-written the book was…and touching without being cheesy.

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  16. nat

    Very touching story – an amazing read!
    I read it in 4 nights, i could not put it down. By the end i was a mess, filled with tears.
    would recommend this – 10/10

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