15 August 2013

Review: Me before You by Jojo Moyes

Me before You by Jojo MoyesSometimes I hate myself for not reading certain books the minute they appear on my doorstep. Jojo Moyes's Me before You was one such book. Many people I trust told me how much they loved the novel and how much they cried while reading it. Although I didn't know the particulars of the story, I knew enough before I even started reading to make some educated guesses. And that's the problem. I was prepared and thus lost most of the emotional impact.

Here's the premise: When Louisa Clark lost her job at the local cafe, she and her family were desperate for her to find something new because her donations to the household budget were sorely needed. After several false starts, Louisa takes a job with the town's most prominent family as a caregiver to their son.

But there's a catch. This is no ordinary mother's helper position; Lou is to be a companion to Will Traynor, a handsome, successful young man who was stopped short after an accident left him wheelchair bound. Life as a quadriplegic is particularly difficult for Will, who once climbed mountains and rode motorcycles, seeking as much adventure as his high-powered London business allowed.

Lou and Will's relationship is at the heart of the novel, but Me before You is not a simple love story. The two come from opposite sides of town and have had different opportunities and expectations. As a consequence, there is no fairytale instant connection that erases the gap between them; Lou is not Cinderella, and Will is hardly Prince Charming.

As they slowly find common ground and mutual respect, they face a number of practical, philosophical, and spiritual issues. And here again, Moyes rises above the crowd; sidestepping the usual arguments, she presents the various sides to these dilemmas through the eyes of her vividly rendered characters, letting us see how their personal agendas affect their hopes and dreams for Will's future.

Although I was robbed of the gut-wrenching emotions that almost every other reviewer and reader has mentioned, I still loved Me before You. Jojo Moyes blows away the mists of sappy romance to reveal the deeper, stronger, and truer layers of an intense relationship that seems doomed right from the start.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Penguin Audio; 14 hr, 40 min), which was read by Susan Lyons. The bulk of the novel is told by Louisa, and Lyons well captures the young woman's conflicted and changing emotions toward her job as well as her slow transformation as she is exposed to the broader world that was once Will's.

A few chapters are told from the viewpoints of the minor characters, and I found the changes in perspective to be off-putting, although informative. Unfortunately, their jarring effect was especially noticeable in the audiobook because each was read by a different performer. If Lyons had been left to narrate the entire novel, the interludes would have seemed more integrated with the rest of the novel, keeping me fully immersed in Lou and Will's story.

Penguin USA / Pamela Dorman Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780670026609
Source: Review (both print and audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

22 comments:

Jenn's Bookshelves 8/15/13, 6:55 AM  

I'm so sorry you didn't love this as much as I did :(.

rhapsodyinbooks 8/15/13, 6:57 AM  

Isn't she great? But I think you'll like her new one even more, because of the history and art tie-ins.

Sandy Nawrot 8/15/13, 7:12 AM  

Yeah I didn't quite "get" the other perspectives. On audio it didn't add much. And you know, going into the book, I knew where it was headed and that it was emotional but I still fell apart. She is such a great writer and man, she just delivered the goods.

Meghan 8/15/13, 7:31 AM  

It's such a shame that this didn't work quite as well for you because of expectations, but I know how that can happen. I'm used to reading regular romances, so the way this one goes felt particularly devastating to me. I've never read anything else by Jojo Moyes, but maybe her next can be more of a surprise for you without so much hype!

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 8/15/13, 7:44 AM  

Expectations. No way to get around those, is there? Thanks for this review.

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice 8/15/13, 8:06 AM  

Nothing like spoilers. I didn't read this book until this summer and I loved it, but I'd ignored most of the buzz. Not sure how it would have translated into audio. Hmmm...

Jennifer Hartling 8/15/13, 9:28 AM  

I liked this quite a bit but I didn't LOVE IT TO BITS like most everyone else ;) But then, I read it after the buzz had gone nuts and my expectations were too high. All of this is to say that I know just what you mean.

kelly 8/15/13, 9:39 AM  

I had a very, very hard time believing she'd be hired for the caregiving job. That colored things a bit for me. Yet, when I watched the movie The Intouchables, which has a similar premise, I had no problem believing it. I don't know why that was! (It's a great movie and it pairs really well with this book if you haven't seen it.)

Andi 8/15/13, 9:40 AM  

I'm glad you liked this one!!! I liked it much more than I'd anticipated.

Melissa (Avid Reader) 8/15/13, 10:07 AM  

I've been curious about this one. I always think it's odd when authors decide to tell just small segments of the story from someone else's POV. It usually doesn't work well.

Hey, I want to read that! 8/15/13, 11:18 AM  

I can't wait to read this one but I think I'll pass on the audio version. I'm really looking forward to her next one, though.

fishgirl182 8/15/13, 3:00 PM  

i read this book a couple of weeks ago and loved it. even though i had an idea of what was going to happen, i don't think the emotional intensity suffered for it. i got it from the library but just bought my own paperback copy.

bermudaonion 8/15/13, 4:36 PM  

I've been trying to put this one off until some of the hype dies down for just that reason.

Nise' 8/15/13, 9:48 PM  

I picked up this book not knowing what it was about and enjoyed it very much. Sorry it didn't work in audio.

Christine 8/15/13, 9:57 PM  

So funny that you reviewed this today.. I just suggested this to be the September read for my book club. I hope it wins the vote!

JoAnn 8/16/13, 4:18 PM  

I have an audio copy here, but kind of want to read it instead...

Heather @ Book Addiction 8/17/13, 10:47 AM  

I read this pre-buzz, so I had no idea what to expect and so it was such a huge surprise to me.

Joan Hansen 8/17/13, 12:50 PM  

I was completely enthralled with the book. I listened to it and ran around everywhere I could with my ear buds in. It was especially interested in it because my husband is a recent quad and it is hard to find support for the families and spouses. Still searching for ways to feel my life is not over. This book was very personal to me. And I loved the narrator, and yes I did not like it when there were other voices. I am going to look for other books from the author and other novels with quads in them.

Daryl 8/19/13, 9:01 AM  

i am glad i read this, didnt listen to it ... i especially loved the ending the last chapter ... i think i cried hardest there ...

Pat @ Posting For Now 8/20/13, 7:01 AM  

I loved this book. I read a hard copy. It is probably a different experience when listening to a book. I've read positive reviews about audios, but I still prefer a hard copy or electronic version.

Jennifer 8/21/13, 12:09 AM  

I keep reading awesome reviews on this book. I hope that they don't necessarily spoil the book for me. I usually read books a long time after I read reviews for them which might be beneficial when it comes to this book.

Teena in Toronto 6/9/14, 9:43 AM  

I finished it last night ... what a story!

http://www.teenaintoronto.com/2014/06/book-me-before-you-2012-jojo-moyes.html

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