Sunday, January 06, 2013
‘Me Before You,’ by Jojo Moyes
Cost of Care - By LIESL SCHILLINGER - Published: January 4, 2013 - New York Times
When I finished this novel, I didn’t want to review it; I wanted to reread it. Which might seem perverse if you know that for most of the last hundred pages I was dissolved in tears. Jojo Moyes, the writer who produced this emotional typhoon, knows very well that “Me Before You” — a novel that has already floated high on Britain’s best-seller lists — is, as British critical consensus affirms, “a real weepy.” And yet, unlike other novels that have achieved their mood-melting powers through calculated infusions of treacle — Erich Segal’s “Love Story” comes immediately to mind — Moyes’s story provokes tears that are redemptive, the opposite of gratuitous. Some situations, she forces the reader to recognize, really are worth crying over.
“Me Before You” is a love story and a family story, but above all it’s a story of the bravery and sustained effort needed to redirect the path of a life once it’s been pushed off course. In the early months of 2009, Louisa (Lou) Clark, a 26-year-old working-class girl, lands a position as a “care assistant” to an intelligent, wealthy and very angry 35-year-old man named Will Traynor, who has spent the past two years as a quadriplegic after being hit by a motorbike. It is Will’s mother, Camilla (with whom he has a chilly relationship), who hires Louisa, and she does so out of desperation. She knows her son is miserable. She already employs a nurse to attend to his medical needs, but she hopes that somehow Louisa might boost his morale.
At the novel’s outset, the prospects for this appear bleak. With his rudeness and his fits of temper, Will resembles Charlotte Brontë’s Mr. Rochester, albeit in a wheelchair. But Louisa Clark is no Jane Eyre, even if, like Brontë’s heroine, she is small, dark-haired and unprepossessing — “one of the invisibles,” as she herself puts it. But being with Will requires backbone. His own no longer works, but for her to keep her job, she will have to acquire one.