Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
Will Traynor is a big shot in the City, a good-looking guy, raking in money by the bushels. He is a big-time charmer, which explains the number of girls who fall for him. He loves adventure sports of all kinds, and cannot imagine a vacation without indulging in at least one dangerous activity. A road accident renders Will incapacitated to use his limbs, and he is diagnosed as a quadriplegic. Being confined to a wheelchair, in the small English town, in his parents’ house is not Will’s idea of leading a life, and that is what makes him extremely bitter and angry, with himself as well as with everyone around him. Me Before You is the story of Will Traynor, and what happens to him after the accident.
This is also the story of Lou Clark, a young lady who has been working in a cafe in Will’s small town for as long as she can remember. She cannot imagine a life beyond the small town, and the cafe, and is, naturally, clueless when she finds herself unemployed, one fine day. A listing at the Job Centre in town lands her a job as Will’s carer, in spite of having utterly no knowledge of how to care for a quadriplegic.
I was ready to dismiss the book as ‘ just another book about a handicapped man and his carer’, as meaningless mush that is so far removed from reality as to be totally unrelatable to. I am glad I decided to give it a try, though. It is such a beautiful book, so well-written that it is a pleasure to read. It tugged at my heart-strings, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it gave me a lot to think about. It is evident that the author has done a lot of research to write the book, raising some very valid questions. It shed a lot of light on what the life of a quadriplegic is like, really, and how ill-equipped most places are to the needs of such a person.
Me Before You is not mere chick-lit. Yes, there is romance in the book, but there is also so much more than that. It is a book full of meaning, full of emotions, full of questions. It is a book that needs to be felt. It is a book that will stay with you a long time after you have finished reading it. Much recommended.
The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes
It is 1916, in German-occupied France. Sophie and her sister manage a cafe, but times are hard, and there is hardly anything for them to eat. Sophie’s husband, Edouard Lefevre, is an artist, but he has been sent to the Front to fight, like so many of the town’s young men, including her sister’s husband. Sophie’s anger knows no bounds when the cafe is ordered to dish up meals for the Germans and to serve as a resting place for them, but she is left with no choice but to cater to their demands. The only thing that keeps Sophie sane, amidst all the madness, is the painting that her husband Edouard painted of her years ago, in which she is a carefree, seductive young woman, so far, far away from the pinched, hard-faced woman she is now. The German Kommandant who is posted in the village, the head of the German regiment in town, is immensely taken with the painting, too. It is this painting that occupies centre stage in Jojo Moyes’s The Girl You Left Behind.
The second part of this book contains a parallell story, set in London, in the present day. Liv Halston, a young widow, is finding it difficult to move on with her life after the death of her architect husband, David. She lives in the house that David designed for her, is surrounded by the things that David bought for her, but finds everything very clinical, very impersonal. The painting of a seductive woman that hangs on the wall of her bedroom is the only thing that she finds cheerful and colourful about the house – it is the very same painting that Edouard Lefevre painted, all those years ago. And now, Edouard’s family wants the painting back.
How did the painting reach Liv? Will Liv give it up, easily? Or will she fight for it? Who will ultimately own the painting – Liv or the artist’s family? You have to read the book to find out. I found myself turning page after page in my quest to find out what happened in the end. This is quite a large book, but I devoured it hungrily, speeding through it till I reached the end. It wasn’t a tough job, considering that the story is extremely well-written and holds your interest till the very end. I enjoyed both parts of the book, and loved the way the author has sketched the various characters.
Like Me Before You, The Girl You Left Behind was enlightening for me, too. It exposed me to the world of stolen art and art recovery, and the moral and legal questions that the latter raises. It is a wonderful book, a very different one, and I would suggest you read it, too.
Honeymoon In Paris: A Novella – Jojo Moyes
Honeymoon In Paris is the e-book only prequel to The Girl You Left Behind. It is an extremely short novella, one that be read within a couple of hours. I had a fun time reading it.
Honeymoon In Paris is about two newly married couples – Edouard and Sophie Lefevre, David and Liv Halston – both honeymooning in Paris at different times. It is a nice introduction to the characters in The Girl You Left Behind, and helps you understand the other book better. As a stand-alone book, though, I don’t think it carries much weight. I would recommend this if you are planning to go ahead and read The Girl You Left Behind soon after.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts about them?
What are you reading at the moment?