Louisa Clark lives in a small English village and works at a local café. When she loses her job she must find another since her family depends on her income. After much searching she finds a job – a rather well-paying one as the care-giver of a quadriplegic. The wealthy man in the wheelchair is Will Traynor, once a successful man leading an energetic dynamic life (“I led a big life”), but now frustrated at his helpless life. Will is cold and almost callous towards Louisa and she in turn is nervous in front of him and his steely-faced mother Magistrate Camilla Traynor. As they get on better terms, Lou realizes that Will puts up a brave front to hide his anger and despair, but she has no idea how fed up he actually is of his life . . .
When you initially read the teaser for a book like “Me Before You” you might think that it would be a predictable romance. Predictable it is not, although it develops nicely as a heartfelt romance. Moyes establishes the characters beautifully. Lou comes from a not very well-off family, and is the older of two sisters. She, at 26, is self-deprecating and doesn’t know what she wants from life. She has lived life cocooned in familiar surroundings. Will, at 35, has been living as a quadriplegic for the past two years. But as is of wealthy men, before the accident which has left him paralyzed, he has lived the life of a worldly, well-travelled man.
Moyes brings these two contrasting characters together and organically develops their relationship from cold hauteur to friendship and more. Louisa sees herself as “an ordinary girl living an ordinary life”. Will, once he has gotten to know her better thinks her “bright” and “interesting”, too bright to be stuck in “this bloody parody of a place mat”. He is constantly egging her on to do more, to get out of her shell, to challenge herself and do something worthwhile with her life. Initially Louisa cares for the anger-filled young man in the wheelchair out of a sense of duty, but later begins to genuinely care for him. He on the other hand, patiently bears through her well-intentioned attempts to cheer him up, and by and by finds himself attracted to and comforted by her. Each assuages the other’s fears, but it may not be enough.
This book and its characters brim with emotion. There is hope and despair and regret, love and affection and anger. Moyes draws her characters sympathetically and with a kind eye. Her book delineates in great detail what life means to a person trapped in a wheelchair, dependent on others for the basic necessities of life – to be fed, washed and bathed, put to bed, turned on a side. It also questions the meaning of hope, and the assumptions we make to keep it alive.
This smart, witty romance has great unforgettable moments. A lovely read, I highly recommend “Me Before You”.