Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Book Recommendation: Me Before You

I want to recommend a book to you. It's this one:

Me Before You
Women's mass market fiction with something to say. At last.

Out of necessity, this review contains some spoilers but I'm not going to reveal the ending so if you decide to read Me Before You there will still be something to discover.

Lou Clark is young woman who works in cafe and has never stretched her horizons. When she loses her job she soon meets handsome and witty Will Traynor, a wealthy businessman with a sharp tongue and arrogant attitude. Love blossoms.

Doesn't sound much different from any other mass market romance fiction does it? But it is.

The difference is that the hero, Will, doesn't have all the characteristics of a normal male protagonist. Unlike the usual impressive able bodied heroes of romance fiction Will has been severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Lou Clark is the carer who comes to love him. And what really lies at the heart of this book is not romance but a discussion about the right for an individual to chose whether to live or die. It's a story about euthanisa. 

As Lou's feelings towards Will begin to develop she discovers he wants to travel to Switzerland to end his life with the help of Dignitas. However, Will has promised his parents that he will give it one more year to see if he changes his mind. The question is -will the underlying love between Lou and Will be enough to save him? Will love bring enough respite to presuade Will to live out his days confined to a wheelchair? 

That's enough of the story. Now I want to tell you why this book is a winner.

Firstly, from a writer's perspective Jojo Moyes has been very clever. She uses a very conventional  formula which publishers know sells. I know from my own experience that trying to write anything that breaks the rules is frowned upon unless your a literary genius. Certainly, when it come to women's fiction publishers are pretty rigid in their ideas. However, Jojo Moyes was already a best selling author with a list of titles to her name who, with a hardcore of fans behind her to spread the good news, was better placed than most authors to push the boundaries of women's fiction.

Secondly, as a reader, this book is incredibly refreshing. It has the engaging relationship story line which is so popular amongst women readers but it also has a very serious message to convey. This is an ingredient which has been missing from a lot of mass market women's fiction. The success of  Me Before You proves what I've thought for a long time - that women are far more open to variable subject matter than publishers think. We want to read about serious subjects too - not just light, fluffy stories that as soon as you've finished it you've forgotten it. Of course there's a time and a place for frothy entertainment and many women enjoy it but there are also many women who actively want to read books that are not just entertaining but emotionally satisfying and intellectually challenging. Modern life as it is busy women don't have the time or the energy to to sit down with a heavy weight literary novel: there is a place on the book shelves for easy-to-read but intelligent writing.  Me before You is a good example of how an author can successfully meet the demands of mass market fiction and produce a thought provoking novel.

I highly recommend Me Before You.


  1. The book sounds good. It resonates deeply with me.

  2. Sue:I think this book will resonate with a lot of people who have been a carer or who have been/are severely ill. In the UK there has been quite a lot of press in the last few years about the possibility of legalising euthanisa. There was a particularly poignant case last year when a man suffering from locked-in syndrome took his case to court and was refused permission for assisted suicide - he then declined food and water and died a week or so later. I found it quite an upsetting case:(
    Of course legalising euthanisa would leave the door open for abuse but I feel strongly that when someone has pursued every legal avenue and shown due sanity that there should some way of allowing them the means to die a dignified death without setting a dangerous legal precedent. It would surely be a matter of very tight legal guidelines?

    As for the book - I suppose there are aspects of it which are a bit "cheesy" - but I can stomach that when it is done this well and when there is something valuable to say. It is a good read:)

  3. Hi Jane, I agree!

    The cover almost put me off reading this book but I am so glad it didn't. I loved it and did a lot of happy and sad crying. Ms Moyes is a smart writer.
    Anna May x

  4. Hi Anna,

    And I agree with you about the cover! It's certainly doesn't do justice to the novel:)


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