Disclaimer: So to begin I just wanted to say that I know this novel caused a lot of speculation about the presentation of disability and inclusion of euthanasia. As someone with no experience in either of these fields I have chosen to not include them explicitly in this review nor judge the novel based on it. I would also like to add that should I present something wrongly or cause any offense to a reader please do alert me and I will remove my post immediately – I never wish to offend anyone and will do everything I can to ensure I don’t.
Me Before You was the first book I successfully read cover to cover in 4 years (this being due to poor concentration caused by depression) and I think that speaks absolute volumes in regards to my opinion of the novel.
The novel is both a cliché and an anti-cliché. It’s an unconventional love story about a girl called Louisa and the individual she cares for, Will. Now I can hear you all thinking ‘what a stereotypical love story’ and perhaps to some degree you are right but there is far more depth and a somewhat unpredictable ending than that – and besides who does not love some soppy romance once in a while?
The story begins with Louisa loosing the job she loved and with little ambition and qualifications she begins searching for a new job and stumbles upon an opportunity to care for Will. The two characters, at that point, could not be more different.
Louisa works with Nathan, who is in charge of the medical needs for Will, in order to brighten his days and care for him. In the beginning this is very tiresome as Will is full of negativity and resentment about his present life, being disabled, especially in such stark contrast to his former life where he was a successful businessmen and adrenaline-junkie. Over these first few months Louisa learns that Will previously attempted suicide and has made a some-what twisted deal with his parents to continue his life for six months before carrying out assisted suicide.
Louisa is, naturally, horrified to begin with but begins devising a plan to help ‘convince’ Will to continue his life. The two begin going out, talking more openly and developing a strong relationship. During this time we learn that Louisa’s true passion is fashion which Will tries to encourage her to pursue and the pair try to support each other for the better. During these initial months Louisa is dating her long-term boyfriend, Patrick, however with her growing relationship with Will and in her self discovery the couple eventually break up.
The plot continues with Louisa supplying activities in order to change Will’s mind while their relationship thickens and reaches its climax when Will confess that Louisa is the only reason he wakes in the morning and agrees to go on a final holiday with her. The holiday is a whirlwind and the two confess their love for each other however the night before their return home Will admits his plans have not changed.
Angry and heartbroken Louisa resigns from her role as carer but after many thoughts decides to join Will on his flight to Switzerland where he will end his life. The couple share some final intimate moments in which they both admit that the time they have spent together has been wonderful. The novel closes with the readers learning that Will left Louisa a considerable sum of money in order to continue her education in fashion and fully experience life. Louisa is reading a final letter from Will declaring this in his favourite cafe in Paris. His final words in the letter tell her to live well.
Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live.
This plot was thoroughly wonderful and fast paced enough that you didn’t settle into the monotony of their lives however slow enough that you could capture and resonate with their emotions, specifically Louisa as the plot is primarily told through her eyes. I enjoyed the moral questions raised and how they made us, the readers, question our own thoughts and views. The one, and only, doubt I have about this novel is the role in which Will’s parents played and I would personally have enjoyed them having a more frontal role or alternatively a future novel from their perspective. The ending itself is very uplifting and reminds the reader of the ongoing debate between quality vs quantity of life and encourages all to embrace life with both hands – one of the quotes in this novel has stayed with me completely and I’ll pop it at the end of this post. I also have the follow-up novel ‘After you’ on my shelf so hopefully I will read it soon – have any of you read it? Does it live up to the high expectations that Me Before You has set? Also let me know in the comments if you loved or hated this novel and any thoughts you have on it.
You only get one life, it’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.