Me Before You (novel and film review & comparison)

"You only get one life. It's actually your duty to live it as fully as possible"

When I finished Me Before You I was torn; I desperately wanted to write about it and review it, but, at the same time, I wanted to read it again (and again, and again). Despite it being a UK bestseller, being made into a major film, and having sold over 5 million copies, I somehow felt that by not sharing my views on the book, it would make it my little world for a bit longer - not to be tainted by others' opinions and, likewise, I didn't want to taint it for anyone else. It is an effortlessly timeless novel which evokes all the right emotions of laughter, hilarity and sadness into not only a story about love but a story about family, financial difficulty, and commitment.

Despite being a book lover who is so easily emotionally invested in narratives, I very rarely become emotionally invested in characters (the only characters that spring to mind are Sophie and Billy from Giovanna Fletcher's Billy and Me) yet within a matter of chapters I was completely absorbed and attached to both Will, with his dry humor, moodiness, and lack of communication, and Lou, in her ridiculous attire, chatty nature, and totally lovable clumsiness.

When you're first introduced to Will (after his devastating accident) with his temper and rude attitude he isn't a far cry from Charlotte Bronte's Mr Rochester in terms of characteristics. But as the whirlwind of colour, chaos and charm, Lou, comes into his life, the once bleak outset is a little happier, much more hilarious and every so slightly eased. As a reader, we are able to witness Will's walls crumble down as he allows himself to love and be loved again. The two introduce each other to new experiences: movies with subtitles, classical concerts, and exploring the National Trust Castle which is at the centre of the novel's setting. I think the novel's pure 'Britishness' is what makes the novel so raw, emotional and, most importantly, real. With Lou's job at the Buttered Bun; her window into other people's lives, discussions and personalities; the modern family dynamics between Lou's family; the national trust/small village setting; and Lou's unglamorised lifestyle all contribute to a narrative that feels so familiar.

Despite the narrative being loved up, charming and, at points, hilarious, Moyes always brings the reader back to reality with a bit of a thud. With medial needs, terrifying bouts of pneumonia, and the impending heart wrenching trip to Switzerland. Yet in these bad times Lou and Will talk, they embrace and they accept it, both of them scared, but both of them so absorbed within each other that it eases the pain, be it physical or emotional. "Tell me something good" Will asks Lou at two poignant moments in the narrative; this is a book about talking and, more importantly, listening. It's full of everything that makes a book truly good and truly wonderful.

“Push yourself. Don’t settle. Wear those stripy legs with pride. And if you insist on settling down with some ridiculous bloke, make sure some of this is squirreled away somewhere. Knowing you still have possibilities is a luxury. Knowing I might have given them to you has alleviated something for me.”

Having been so  invested in the book I was, admittedly, very apprehensive about seeing the film. I am yet to come across a film that truly lives up to the book itself but, in this case, it is very close (by very I mean within touching distance). What I find hard is the contrast between how my mind reads the characters, how I picture them in appearance, and how closely the film follows the book. However, in this case Lou was just as I had imagined - both in character and appearance, as was Will (although admittedly I hadn't pictured him as being quite as beautiful as Sam Claflin, I'm not complaining though)

It comforted me to know that Jojo Moyes had adapted the novel for the film and that it wasn't some big shot in Hollywood who was going to move Lou and Will to New York, give Lou a designer handbag and completely change the ending. The film is incredibly accurate, naturally some part are overlooked or missed out, but the magic and emotion of the book are still very much present in the film. Everything down to the soundtrack, which includes Ed Sheeran's Photograph, The 1975's The Sound, and Imagine Dragons' Not Today, is perfection and plays alongside the narrative effortlessly.

"Push Yourself. Don't settle. Just live well. Just LIVE."


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