Me Before You, a novel by Jojo Moyes was published four years ago and was made into a movie this year starring Emilia Clarke (queen of all our hearts on Game of Thrones) and Sam Claflin (charming heartthrob from The Hunger Games and Love, Rosie). I wanted to read the book before I watched the movie and now that I’ve read the book and watched the movie I’m finally getting around to writing up my comparison and some other deep thoughts I’ve had about the story.
So to briefly give you a synopsis of the storyline if you’re unfamiliar with it, the story is narrated by a mid-20s woman named Louisa (Lou for short). She lives in a small English town and after losing her job at a local cafe she finds a new job as a companion/caretaker of sorts to Will, a rich mid-30s man who was involved in a horrible accident and left a paraplegic. Understandably, when Lou first meets Will he is taciturn, bitter, and generally an unhappy person to be around. Will was a successful businessman and full of life – traveling all around the world and a very active person doing things like jumping out of airplanes and cliff diving. So naturally, now being confined to a wheelchair and not even being able to feed himself is an enormous change for him. Little does Lou know that one of the reasons Will’s parents have hired her is to remind him that life is worth living – Will has decided he wants to end his life at an assisted suicide type of place. But can Lou change his mind in the time she’s given?
The story is definitely emotional and full of love and sadness. I’m so happy I read this at the same time as my best friend (in our 2 person book club) because it allowed us to be able to talk to each other throughout the book and share our own opinions of what was going on and the characters’ choices.
I really loved the book and did quite enjoy the movie, but I wish the movie spent a bit more time on dialogue between Lou and Will to really build and deepen their relationship. If you watched the movie without reading the book, I guess you were supposed to assume that over time they developed a real love for each other. But, it would’ve been nice if they chose to drive the story with more dialogue and conversation to show just how close the pair had become and how deeply they understood each other.
While the core of the story is a love story, I want to take a side step from that for a brief moment and bring up one of the other big topics in the story. As mentioned above, Will wants to end his life because he doesn’t feel like what he’s doing now is living. He has had all his choices taken away from him and as far as doctors have told him, his health will only get worse and not improve. Stories like this have been in the news in recent years with people lobbying for laws to be passed for people to be able to “die with dignity”. This is controversial, naturally, and elicits a lot of debate. I can see both sides of the argument. But, I think this story really makes you think about it. Lou and Will’s family felt he was being so selfish for wanting to end his life – they thought he should keep living and think about what he would do to everyone if he died. But, on the other hand, you could also say it’s them that are being selfish. If you know he’s suffering, and only deteriorating, isn’t it selfish to want him to keep living because you don’t want to be without him? Just something to think about.
What I loved about this love story is that while Lou and Will were not each other’s normal type, they got to know each other and eventually become best friends and fall in love. They forget about their differences and develop a deep connection and understanding of each other. They both push each other for the better, even if the other doesn’t want to hear it.
Some quotes I loved from the novel:
- About 1/4 of the way into the book, Will tries to convince Lou to go to a classical music concert, but she is hesitant because she doesn’t know if she’ll like classical music. She thinks it’s not her “thing”.
“You cut yourself off from all sorts of experiences because you tell yourself you are ‘not that sort of person;”
“But I’m not.”
“How do you know? You’ve done nothing, been nowhere. How do you have the faintest idea what kind of person you are?”
- About 3/4 through the book, Lou is having a conversation with Nathan – Will’s nurse. Nathan thinks that Will is going through the motions to make Lou happy, while Lou just wants Will to live no matter what. Nathan says something to Lou that really struck her,
“But I want him to live if he wants to live. If he doesn’t, then by forcing him to carry on, you, me – no matter how much we love him – we become just another shitty bunch of people taking away his choices.”
- The end of the novel is beautifully written and so descriptive. You have to read it for yourself for the full effect, but I will share a little snippet to give you an idea of how emotional and descriptive it is.
“I tried not to think of anything at all. I just tried to be, tried to absorb the man I loved through osmosis, tried to imprint what I had left of him on myself. I did not speak. And then I heard his voice. I was so close to him that when he spoke it seemed to vibrate gently through me.”
I believe this to be a great love story and will be tugging at your heart strings throughout. There is something heartbreaking about it as well as uplifting in certain ways. I think Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin did a marvelous job of capturing the essence of their respective characters. But as mentioned above, I think the movie could’ve done with more heavy dialogue to solidify their love for viewers. The novel had them talking about some pretty heavy topics about their pasts and it really helped them both connect to each other so I wish they had incorporated that more in to the movie.
I read the follow up novel, After You, immediately after which I did not like as much. But that review will come on another day!
Have you read Me Before You? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
All images from Wikipedia.