(Haven’t read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes? Never fear we’re giving away TWO copies! Go here to enter! Good Luck!)Not too long ago, the first trailer for Me Before You was released, and while many of the TN contributors had read and loved the book, Jamie W. and I were two of the people who had never read it. The trailer was wonderful and many tears were shed, so at everyone’s recommendation, we each bought a copy and read it that weekend. Me Before You has been mentioned many times before on That’s Normal, but Bekah pointed out that nobody has actually written a post about it before. Since Jamie and I just finished it we decided to have a conversation, while our thoughts and emotions were fresh in our minds.
Jamie and I actually have several similar interests. Tom Hiddleston…probably a few other things as well, but Tom Hiddleston is the big one. But we can now add Jojo Moyes’ book to the list.
*Before you read on, know that this is not a spoiler free discussion.*
TALKING ABOUT BEING SUPER LATE TO THIS PARTY AND THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Emily: I had heard of the book before the trailer dropped but only by title and by cover because other TN girls had mentioned reading it. But there were always other books to read. TN Confession: I haven’t read Outlander… So when the trailer dropped, I watched not even knowing that it was the book others had mentioned. I watched 2 mInutes, and then I cried.
Jamie: I had heard of the book too, but had absolutely no idea what it was about. I knew that a movie version was being made, and I adore Sam Claflin and think he’ll be amazing in this, but haven’t ever seen Game of Thrones, so I’m not familiar with Emilia Clarke’s work. (Now having read the book and seeing her in the trailer, I think she’s perfect.) I cried when I watched the trailer too. Granted, the bar for things that make me cry is incredibly low, but I got the feeling that it was more than that. I think watching this movie may actually obliterate me.
Emily: I loved the trailer and had never seen Emilia Clarke looking… wait is her real life last name Clark too? That’s easy… sorry… Anyway I had never seen “mother of dragons” looking so approachable and relatable. She was darling. Now, having seen the trailer, that’s who I pictured when I read. It didn’t give me a chance to form my own characters in my head. But I loved it and think they did a good job casting. Other girls said they didn’t love Sam Claflin as Will, but I’m okay with it.
I read in a total of 7 hours. 4 hours Saturday night and then 3 on Sunday morning.
Jamie: It was a quicker read than I anticipated, and I read it in two sittings as well.
Emily: I didn’t exactly grasp that it was assisted suicide because I was focused on the relationship in the trailer.
Jamie: I had a small inkling about the suicide story line because of Will’s line in the trailer “I promised my parents six months, and that’s what I’ve given them.” But trailers can be designed to be misleading, so I thought there was the possibility that it could have been about something else. It was not about something else.
Emily: I did often find myself thinking, “This book is so British.” Like Will’s mum or even Louisa’s mum. Even though they are so vastly different ends of the spectrum, they are still sooo British.
Jamie: The book was very British, I agree. The only time it really stood out to me though was in some of the British colloquialisms.
Emily: I didn’t exactly love Treena and felt she was an entitled little pain in the ass. Who makes their parents sleep on the floor? I get it, go back to school. Do something with your life but it was odd that she could continue on with her studies but Louisa had to retrain. Maybe the town is too small?
Jamie: I liked the way Jojo Moyes wrote Lou and Treena’s relationship (the fact that siblings can fight with each other one minute but defend each other the next is incredibly accurate) but I didn’t love Treena either, for some of the same reasons you mentioned. She did grow on me a bit by the end. The chapter in her POV was interesting because on the one hand it showed some of the entitlement you’re talking about. At the same time, that chapter is what ended up redeeming her a bit for me, when she sided with Lou over her mother and drove Lou to the airport to get to Switzerland. This was the same chapter that actually made me dislike their mother, who up until that point I was kind of neutral about. I understand that people have some very strong views about assisted suicide, but I can’t imagine telling my child that I would essentially disown her when she was that devastated about the man she loves being hours away from death.
Emily: Whatever your view is on this or any other major issue, to kick your daughter out is crazy. So Treena coming to her defense, totally. I just was saying as a big sister, if my sister acted that way I’d smack her upside the head. But I’m also first in line to defend her 🙂
PATRICK AND POV
Emily: Also Patrick… is that going to be played by Neville? I can see that. Anyway. He’s a dick. He encouraged her to take the job. He could never be threatened by anyone who wasn’t an equal, and he never once considered Will equal.
Jamie: Patrick is the one being played by Matthew Lewis! I had a range of emotions about him. At first I just thought that he was immature and selfish because all he seemed to care about was that damn race he was training for. When he got all jealous about Lou and Will together at Lou’s birthday dinner I thought he was annoyingly petty. BUT THEN. When we find out that he was the one that told everyone about Will and was the cause of all the press that showed up at the Clark’s house I was furious. I get that you’re upset that your relationship is over but what the hell?
Jamie: I thought the different POV chapters would bother me, since I don’t usually like that sort of thing. But I actually really liked it here, I thought we got some important pieces of the story that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. Camilla’s chapter was really heartbreaking, I can’t imagine how difficult that would be for a mother to go through. And that’s something that we could have guessed at, but hearing it from her showed how truly desperate she was to save her son’s life. I even liked the detail about Will’s state of mind that we got in Nathan’s chapter: Will telling Lou not to change his catheter the night they went to the wedding. She knew how to do it, and would have, but Will didn’t want his “real life” to encroach on the perfect night they were having.
Emily: I did find it odd on the POV switching but didn’t hate it. It just made the reading a bit tedious but I get what they were for. I did forget who Steven was though when it came to his chapter. But because most of it was told from Louisa’s point of view, to see Nathan’s and his interaction with Will, perfect.
WE DISCUSS FINANCIAL THINGS AND THEN CRY
Emily: I’m the oldest of 3 kids. I can a little bit relate to Louisa needing to be responsible but maybe the whole sole dependency on your child and their wages. Seems a bit odd to me.
Jamie: I liked the fact that Louisa’s family had financial issues. It takes place in modern day, when the economy isn’t great. It’s more realistic that Lou felt like she was partly trapped where she was because she felt a financial responsibility to her family, and not only because she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. One of my least favorite things when I watch/read something is when a character has a cathartic, unrealistic “I hate my job, I’m just going to quit!” moment. That’s not how real life works.
Emily: I do agree about the reality of recession and happening now. I guess while I’ve been unemployed, getting unemployment benefits in the US is easier and maybe that’s why I had such an issue with it. I just can’t imagine and yet as the oldest though living away from family, I still feel responsible for peace keeping and welfare at home.
I loved the tights, the wedding, the trip, the hotel room, and even now as I write this and I think of Louisa asking Will, “Why am I not enough?” I am tearing up again. I know I have had this emotion before. But looking back it was for the best. But in that moment when your heart is so intertwined with another and you cannot see beyond those emotions it’s all you can wonder.
Jamie: One of the strongest parts of the book for me was the way Jojo Moyes was able to make me completely understand why both Lou and Will wanted what they did. That’s not an easy feat. I hoped that in the end Will was going to change his mind too, because I’m a sap like that. I thought: How could be possibly give this up? He knows that he can be happy. Wouldn’t the possibility of what they could have together be enough for him to want to live?
Jamie: But at the same time, I can also understand why he made the choice to end his life when he did. When things were still good. Hearing him talk about what a vibrant, adventurous person he was before the accident, he couldn’t have come to his decision lightly. Knowing that his physical condition not only would’t get better, but would probably get worse is a terrifying prospect. Needing your partner to take care of you (even if they wouldn’t consider it a burden), not being able to have sex, or be able to hold your child, travel or work the way you want to…the “what ifs” in life can be so difficult.
Emily: Your statement of how author could make you so easily see both points of view is spot on. I mean usually you empathize with one character but you got both sides and we’re gutted by both stories. And was Will selfish, or selfless? He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone even if Louisa would have done it gladly. He wanted more for her, but for her, he was enough.
Jamie: I don’t think it’s entirely either. I totally respect the right for someone to make choices about their quality of life. I don’t think it was insinuating that people with disabilities can’t have fulfilling lives, the people on the message boards that Lou talked to proved that. But Will knew himself enough to know that he would never feel that way. The one thing that Will did that I thought was selfish was the fact that he didn’t tell Louisa about his plans until the last night of their vacation. He didn’t know that she already knew, and his appointment in Switzerland was in a few days. I realize that there is no easy way to tell someone something like that and that it was never going to be easy, and I sympathize with that, but still…
EVEN MORE CRYING, AND JAMIE’S EYES BASICALLY SWELLING SHUT
Emily: Part of me hoped as the story progressed that will would love Louisa enough to change his mind. And tbh I thought he was not going to have the choice and would be actually killed by something else, like the pneumonia. But then I thought it was going to be all Fault In Our Stars and Louisa would die before him. I had a range of emotions.
Jamie: My mother actually has some physical disabilities, though nothing nearly as all consuming as quadriplegia. She can work and drive, and do many of the things that everyone else can do, and because she’s been that way my whole life I don’t notice it. She does still need help with certain things, and some of the thoughts and feelings she’s shared with me are things I probably applied to the way Will felt. About the lack of independence and not wanting to be a burden to the people you love especially. And from my point of view, I know exactly some of the things that Lou was feeling, because I’ve felt them too. The fact that if you love someone you just do those things without thinking about it, because of course you do. And it’s not always easy, but you don’t resent it either.
Emily: I understand, my mom is also disabled and needs assistance. My sister is a trained CNA so she’s done Louisa’s job. It’s nice to know she is around should something happen.
Jamie: One of the smaller scenes that I really loved: the moment in the maze where Lou had a panic attack and Will came in to get her. For a few reasons. It showed Will’s frustration that he couldn’t comfort her the way that he wanted to, when his instinct was to reach out for her and he couldn’t. He makes the comment about his arm “useless” when he tries to reach out for her. The fact that Lou trusted Will enough to talk to him about her sexual assault as a teenager was huge. I liked the way Jojo Moyes wrote that very much. Unfortunately stories that involve sexual assault are very rarely done well, or in a realistic way (at least in my opinion).
Emily: The maze scene was so well written. Jojo’s style of writing just evokes all of my emotions at once. And agree it helped form the Louisa we as readers know.
Jamie: The scene on the beach on their last night was devastating. Lou trying so hard to convince Will that they could be so happy, and just willing him with every fiber of her being to understand that her life wouldn’t be diminished in any way by being with him. But he just can’t do it. Ugh, killed me. But the scene that absolutely destroyed me was their last moments together in the room in Switzerland. I was openly, audibly sobbing. I just started crying right now typing this because I thought about it again. On his side, knowing that these were the last few moments of his life, and he just looks at her and soaks her in. Knowing everything he wrote in his letter to her. And for her, knowing that after that moment she was going to have to go on without him, that as hard as she had tried, she was still going to lose him. Can you imagine what this scene is going to be like in the movie?
Emily: How can thoughts of this moment in a fictional book still bring forth such emotion? I cried for an hour and then fell asleep because my head hurt from crying. Woke up and still cried. I cried the next day thinking about it, I cried telling a coworker who will never read it about it. And like you, even now thinking about this precious moments, I can feel the tears well behind my eyes.
Jamie: Will’s letter to her in the epilogue says “Don’t think of me too often,” but we know she’s going to. It might not always give her a sharp pain like it will be initially, but she’ll probably always have a dull sort of ache. Like every time she sees her bumblebee tattoo. Is she ever going to be able to wear those tights or red dress again without it being painful? Going to weddings and concerts, it might always be in the back of her mind. Like I said before, “what ifs” can be terrible. I’m sure Lou will move on and be happy sometime in the future, but will probably always wonder in certain moments what her life with Will would have been like if he had chosen to live.
CAN YOU LOVE SOMETHING THAT CRUSHED YOUR HEART TO DUST?
Jamie: I just read the book, and am still pretty upset about it, but I really did love it. And I think it’s going to be one of those books that stays with me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life since finishing it actually, which sounds so deep and pretentious, but I don’t mean it that way. I am going to have to give myself a bit of time before I read After You though.
Emily: I started the preview of After You at the end of this. When I saw where it’s started and how long had passed, I just cried again. I think, because so many people who have been through breakups where the question is often, “Why can’t I be enough?”… This is what resonates with people, this is why this book is evocative and feeling. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had that thought of “Why am I not enough?”
I just passed my copy off to my bff and warned her she will cry. I’m waiting for the picture of a tissue box.
If you’ve read the book, then you know that there is so much more to say. Share your thoughts in the comments!