True to my word, I’m trying to stay active here as well as post brief reviews on GoodReads because everytime I end up writing a review, either the blog or the GR page gets ignored. Hoping to change that, let’s get on with a book review that should probably have been done a long time ago.
For The Book Files today, I’ll be reviewing Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. As you might already be aware that we read this book as our first bookclub choice and last Saturday was the final discussion. Before I progress on to the book selected for this month, it’s only appropriate to give our first book the farewell it deserves!
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is the emotional journey of Louisa Clark, a small time English village girl who’s only ambition in life is to sustain her family. When after 6 years of working in a bakery, she is let off, her world topples upside down. Unable to think of any other job she would like or the one she thinks she is properly trained for, she ultimately resigns to the Job Searcher’s programe and ends up hating every job thrown her way because 1. She isn’t qualified much to take up a high end office job. 2. She was so comfortable with her old one, that venturing off to a new profession suddenly seems too daunting. When her adviser finally tells her about a job opening of a caretaker who only would be there for companion value, she grudgingly agrees as her family pressurises and goes on to meet Will Traynor, a quadrapeligic who has been left so in such a state after a street accident. Rude and wapish initially, he intimidates Lou to flee and leave, when her sister tells her that she’s quitting her own job and Lou will have to take up the 6 month caretaker position to compensate. As Lou is able to gradually break the ice and Will warms up to her, she finds out a terrifying secret: Her 6 month contract is time bound, not because it’s a position to be frequently changed but because Will, tired of his life has given his parents only 6 more months after which he will go to Diginatis, A Mercy Killing/Euthanasia supportive institution in Switzerland. Aghast by the information, she is persuaded by Mrs. Traynor to help change Will’s mind after which begins the ultimate mission of Lou’s life: Making Will Love Life Again.
This was my first full blown love story/romantic novel and after much initial hesitation, I ended up loving it a lot! Euthanasia, battered household, frugal measures, aimless future and love are the most prevalant themes in the novel, and despite its dark and emotional theme, Jojo Moyes has done an excellent job of including wit, humour and laughter in the story, making you laugh and cry at the same time!I’m not exactly a romance enthusiast but this was definitely a heart warmer for me. True, it isn’t all happily-ever-after-is but it’s a story well worth the tears!
There were a few questions that were asked as a part of our club discussion and I will be addressing them all!
- How did you initially respond to the theme of the book? (Euthanasia/Mercy Killing) : I’ve read about Mercy Killing in Non fictions books but the emotional aspect in this book was a full frontal attack on my tear ducts!
- What would you have done if you were in Louise Clark’s place? : The same. I think I would have run away initially too, in the hopes that Will would rethink his decision and gone back again because leaving without a goodbye would have left me scarred for life.
- Do you think Will made the right decision? What would you have done if (God Forbid) you were in his place? I’m a busy bee and I seldom sit in one position for more than a couple of minutes. I’m a dancer and traveller and had I been in Will’s place, I think I would have said my goodbyes a long time ago.
- Mrs. Traynor exhibited a very cold and aloof nature throughout the book. Was it only because of Will’s condition and the impending decision or did her relationship with her husband also a play a vital role? From the book it’s certainly clear that Mr. Traynor was an absent father figure in Will’s childhood and even after the accident and so much going on in his family, he chose his affair over his relationships which to me is selfish and cold. Mrs. Traynor, dealing with her husband’s infidelity as well as watching her child inch towards death everyday made her close up her emotions and hide them so as to not break the facade of a happy family image or rather a strong woman image in front of others.
- Mr. Traynor comes across as an unfit father figure. Do you hold any sympathy towards him or is he too selfish to be sympathised with? No. Anyone, man or woman, who can’t contribute emotionally to their family in need is better off absent than being half present. From me, he deserves no sympathy or apathy.
- Katrina (Treena) Clark was an imposing and a daunting character. Do you think she was in anyway responsible for Louisa’s low self esteem? When a sister, younger to you, overshadows you in all aspects and make you believe that you are incapable of matching upto her, a loss of self respect and esteem is obvious.
- Louisa’s parents constantly put her at butt of all jokes whereas she was the only responsible one. Why do you think Treena always had the advantage over Lou? Considering she was the only one who put her ambitions aside because she had to take care of her family, her family was awfully ungrateful. If they couldn’t contribute or even respect Lou, they should have stayed mum and thanked their stars that their daughter didn’t leave them up to fend for themselves and starve.
- In what light do you view the Clarks as parents? I didn’t like them. Ungrateful, selfish, biased and utterly disrespectful. At times it doesn’t matter what people outside say or make you feel but when your own parents continue to put you down in front of others and make you their punchlines, a person, a normal capable and intelligent person too, ends up doubting themselves.
- Do you think Treena going away to college and letting her parents and Lou work for her course fees makes her a bad person? Was she only doing what she saw fit for Thomas’s future? Or were the reasons purely for her own benefit? Treena had always been the centre of attraction all her life and becoming a non entity or just a flower girl, hampered her spirit and mind. Maybe Thomas was in the mission but I think the key factor of this decision was Treena and her own future.
- The character of Louisa shows great personal development as the book progresses. Is only Will to be credited for it or other factors are also engaged? From an aimless nobody, the determination and grit with which Lou handled Will and her plan to keep him alive, contributed towards her shedding her inhibitons and allowing herself, for the first time, stand up for herself.
- The sibling rivalry is pretty evident in the Clark and Traynor side. Do you think a. It’s normal b. One is dominant and other submissive c. The tension of the situations make it worse? I think all of the above. Sibling rivalry is pretty common and usually one is dominant while the other isn’t. In the Clarks’ case, their financial situation escalated the issue as well as the fact that Treena gave up all her responsibilities and put the whole burden on Lou. On the Traynor side, the Euthanasia condition he set on his family, lead to a frenzy of relationships.
- Patrick is a jock who only wanted Lou waiting in the wings for him while he went out and fulfilled his dreams.Do you agree? Ofcourse. Won’t say more than the fact that he’s an ass hole. Period.
- Georgina Traynor, Will’s younger sister didn’t want to be bothered stuck and caring for a grumpy man because she had better, fun things to do. Agree or Disagree? Agree. I think Will’s rude attitude plus the situation of their household must have driven her to run away rather than face the situation and deal with it all. Besides, she mentions that she would rather be living her life than being stuck there caring for someone who didn’t want to be cared for.
- Which character in the book, apart from Lou and Will, stood out for you the most? (Negative or positive, their character and it’s depth lingered on and made you think even after you had finished the book.) Nathan. Although the others in their place we’re rightfully moved (or weren’t as for that matter) But Nathan comes off as not only an exceptional doctor and caretaker but also a sweet tempered and loving human, who joins forces with Lou despite knowing the fact that Will’s decision might remain unchanged.
- Picking up such a sensitive topic, do you think Moyes was able to change your previous view about Mercy Killing? Since I firSt came across the topic, I’ve been of the view that the ‘Right to Live’ should be a fundamental right, giving everyone the freedom to do as they please with it. Making a person die a thousand deaths everyday just because people around him shouldn’t suffer an emotional turmoil, is unfair on basic human level.
- Which particular scene (except the ending) stood out for you? Two did. One, When Will dines with the Clarks and we see him become himself, even if for just a few minutes. Two, when he gifts her those bumble bee tights. I cried so damn hard!!
- This was a potential contender in the banned books category. Do you think books with such topics should really be banned or should be highlighted and promoted to make people aware of the sufferer’s point of view? Why ban something that can potentiallylead to a better world? Man lives life for happiness and a life that only pushes him towards death isn’t worth living in the first place.
- Would you read such a book again? Maybe not so soon. I’m still reeling from its aftereffects but one day definitely.
- Would you read such a book again were in it a non fiction genre minus the love story? I think I would much prefer that.
- If it all comes down to perspective, then everyone is right and everyone is wrong. In the context of the theme of the book, do you agree? It’s right for them to fight to keep a loved one with them no matter what and it’s equally right for them to choose to end their life if they don’t think they are ‘living’ anymore.
- How did you find Jojo Moyes’s writing style? I think it’s quite laid back, casual yet full of quick wit, humour and laughter!
- The sequel, Me After You, is out. Would you want to read that or was the end of Me Before You the best possible closure to the story? Again dicey on that one. Maybe one day but for now, Will and Lou is where this ends for me.
- Has this book/genre widened you reading scope? Without a doubt!
That’s it! See you next time!