Monday, 25 March 2013

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

I had missed the last meeting as I was sitting in the Sky Bar of the Hilton in London overlooking the Gherkin and the Shard drinking very expensive but gorgeous cocktails. Sorry, boast over, but it’s not every day a girl turns 30!
Missing the meeting meant I had missed why this book had been suggested/chosen and as I had never heard of it before I was totally walking in blind. My initial thought was that it appeared to be almost chick litty - the title, the cover, the synopsis on the back, however it had quite a few more pages than usually found in that genre and the saying goes ‘never judge a book by its cover’.

Let me officially confirm that the synopsis and the cover totally totally don’t do it justice. For a start a book about a quadriplegic who is wanting to exercise his right to die in Switzerland is a way more gritty subject matter than I expected to come across. I guessed what was going to happen about 2/3rd of the way through but it still didn’t stop me from crying bucket loads at the end – always the sign of a good book.

The book club thought so too.

We all really liked the characters, they were so vivid and really important to the story. It wasn’t just a book about two people with occasional friends coming along to provide a sound off. You felt for the outside characters, they were involved, important. I loved the relationship between Lou and her sister Treena. Moyes in general was very good at capturing real life – Dads stealing extra potatoes, sisters squabbling over hairdryers.

I even quite liked Patrick. I think it would have been very easy to paint him as the bad guy to make you squarely side with Will. Reporting to newspapers aside, Moyes didn’t make Patrick the automatic villain, he was just in his own little world with his running and you could see that he was genuinely hurt by Will and the effect he was having on Lou.

For being such a grim subject Moyes also managed to introduce humour – for example Lou when she inadvertently got drunk on Pimms, the splitting skirt in the interview and the neighbours arguing over an affair.

We all really loved the chapters that were from another persons point of view – Camilla and so forth. We really thought that Camillas chapter was essential in making us see her side of the story as from Lous eyes she came across as a very cold career minded woman. The same goes with Wills dad. His chapter showed how he was in catch twenty two. He wanted to be with his mistress but wouldn’t leave her whilst Will was alive. Yet to wish that Will would actually die would mean him losing his only son. He wasn’t just a ba$tard having an affair. (Sorry). I admit however I was quite worried that we were not going to get anymore from Lous point of view and was relieved that they were only short interspersed chapters.

We discussed peoples reactions to disabled persons and how unwilling people were to help. For example how Lou had to pretend Will was an ex-squaddie to obtain help in getting him over the sodden grass at the races. Is it really only ok to be a paraplegic if you are an ex squaddie/hero?

We also talked about how ironic it was that Will injured himself by taking the safe option – not taking his motorbike but trying to hail a taxi in pouring rain. How active he was before the accident and how that would have made things worse subsequently. That lead us on to discussing Will and whether he would have fallen for Lou as an able bodied person. We unanimously thought he wouldn’t have – Will even admitted this at the wedding. We also thought though that Lou would never have looked twice at him thinking that she was way way out of his league.

Inevitably we talked about Lou and the effect she had on Will. The prologue showed how attached he was to his Blackberry never truly turning off, yet in the Maldives he was content to just sit and watch Lou swimming. In a way he was much more open to life, yes I know that sounds silly when all he wanted to do was head to Switzerland.

Lou herself was an interesting person to talk about. She had always done things for other people and seemed to be quite happy in doing it. Only Will saw her for what she could be which lead to what, I thought at least, a couple of pretty woman moments – wearing a red dress to the theatre?!

We did worry about whether she would she still be putting someone else first now that Will had died given the fact that we left her in Paris following Wills instructions about buying a suggested perfume. Yes he left her money so she had the freedom to do things but he left instructions that she should use it to buy a house and study. Living for someone else is still not fully living even if you are able to buy a house and take trips to France.

We inevitably talked about Wills decision - could Lou have ever changed his mind? We doubted so. It was the one thing he had control of and for that reason he wouldn’t ever have changed his mind. I hated him at that point though. Lou put herself out there saying she loved him and he turned round and said you are not enough. For some people that is unrecoverable from. I did like however that she went to Switzerland in the end, cue the tissues

Thank you to those that choose the book. It’s books like this that make me love my book club. I had never heard of it and to be honest would never have looked twice at it on a shelf. The group had mixed reviews for her other work but this one is a star.

We gave it an 8.5

Next book Life of Pi - Yann Martel