Written by Menna Fahmi
During one book fair, I decided to ditch the air-conditioned halls with the shiny brand new pricy books and went to Soor el Azbakya, among the dusty yellow-paged books, my eyes fell on “Me Before you” by Jojo Moyes. Up till today I have no idea why I bought it, except maybe for the fact that it cost me like EGP20.
Even though the book was originally published in 2012, it suddenly resurfaced to the best sellers’ shelves in multiple bookstores in Cairo as the movie release approached.
The book takes us into the life of Louisa Clarke (a.k.a Lou), who has been living in a box, working a job she doesn’t like, as a waitress at The Buttered Bun tea shop, and with a boyfriend she knows she doesn’t love, Patrick. Louisa has been living with her working-class family, including her younger sister, Treena, and a single mother whom Lou has always felt outshone by. But Lou’s box comes tumbling down as she is laid off from her job.
Trained for nothing and unqualified, Lou must find a job to support her family, as she jumps from one option to the other, with several failed attempts at the career centre, she finds herself the caregiver for Will Traynor. Will is an ex-banker son of a businessman from an upper class family, with great wealth, with the world at the tip of his fingers. But with complete paralysis, all of the previous was worthless to the previously active adventurous Will and he lives in depression, only meeting his Nurse and the revolving door of caregivers until Lou arrives. Will’s mother hires Louisa despite her lack of experience with the hope that she may bring Will out of his current state.
Bit by bit Will starts to respond to Lou’s chirpiness, and as she spends more time with him, she learns about the motorcycle accident that paralyzed him. She learns about his suicide attempt as she sees his scarred wrists. She sees his ex-girlfriend as she comes to tell him she was about to marry his best friend. And finally, she learns about Will’s agreement with his mother. Will had decided to go to Dignitas, a Swiss assisted suicide facility, yet he gave his mother 6 months before he finally attempts to take his own life.
Louisa breaks down and with the assistance of her sister, they create a program with the sole intention of showing Will that he can still have a good life and many adventures in his wheelchair. Through the course of the adventures, the two grow closer together as she learns about his life before the accident and he learns about her lack of ambition. They both try to change the other, they develop a relationship as Will tells Louisa she is the reason he wakes up every morning. She tells him she’s in love with him, leading Will to confess to her about his plans for suicide. Knowing their relationship failed to change his mind, Lou storms off angrily and then resigns.
Louisa Finally has a change of heart and visits him in Switzerland on his last night agreeing that the six months they spent together was the best of both of their lives. The final chapter has Louisa at a café in Paris reading Will’s last letter to her, leaving her a good inheritance to complete her education and telling her to live her life.
To me the book was no more than another version of “A Walk to Remember”, “Sweet November” and “Love Story”. I’d give Jojo Moyes a round of applause for her style of writing that kept me from throwing the book and actually complete it, despite the fact that I did not like the story or find it unique in any way.
What I despised the most about the book was the fact that it gave me the feeling that the key message is: a disabled life is not worth living even if you have your family and the love of your life by your side with extreme wealth and the best medical care there is, which I find to be extremely unethical. I’d give the book a rating of 2 out of 5.
“Me Before you” is followed by the sequel “After You”, that follows Louisa’s life after the life-changing six months she spent with Will. The book follows her journey to move on and live her new extra-ordinary life. I honestly couldn’t bring myself to read it especially with the 3.7 out of 5 rating on Goodreads compared to the 1st book’s 4.3 out of 5. I’d probably give the movie a try though, I mean it is Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin!
The book is available in Alef bookstores and Virgin megastores. You can check out the movie trailer here:
So, What do you think?
Let us know what your opinion of the book is and your rating. Also, let us know what book you would like Cairo’s Bibliomane to review next in the comments below!