Me Before You & After You by Jojo Moyes: This Ain’t A Love Song

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Since these books have been in the spotlight for the last few months, what with the motion picture for Me Before You releasing in June; I wanted to talk about this book for a little bit; everyone else seems to be.

My interest in Me Before You started off through the film when I was scrolling through YouTube one night and had somehow ventured over to the trailers of films yet to be released. As a Khaleesi and Finnick fan (if you know, you know), I couldn’t resist peeking at the trailer. I was in tears at around:

“You can’t change who people are.”

“Then what can you do?”

“You love them.”

I bought the book off Amazon not long after.

But I’m not writing this post to gush about how hard it made me cry and how I fell in love with the characters (I did cry absolutely disgustingly, though) as there’s more to this story than what meets the mainstream media eye, so I wanted to share my take on what these books were trying to say and what the film didn’t.

Louisa Clark is portrayed to be quite the nobody, this is the role we as the reader are encouraged to see her. She gets a job (because she just needs the money; not in a selfish way, but because her family is dependent on her) working as a carer and companion for Will Traynor, a 30-something gorgeous lad who was tragically hit by a motorcycle and left a quadriplegic. Before his accident, Will was an adrenaline junkie; the type of guy who jumped off cliffs and all sorts. As the story comes along we learn that Will is a bit of an arse, quite snobbish and angry, and Lou is the one to bring him down off his high horse, with what can only be judged as her “commonness” and simplistic ideals. Will is astounded that she has never watched a film with subtitles and starts on the road to making her more cultured, in his words; “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

In the midst of all that; Louisa is trying to make his life a bit happier as we discover he is depressed and has attempted to commit suicide in the past. Will is trying to teach this girl about all the living she could do. We find out that Will has been in contact with Dignitas, the assisted suicide establishment in Switzerland, and that he wants to end his own life. Full stop. From here, Louisa sets into action a plan to show him all the best parts of living and fun things to do, to change his mind.

Now, in the film, that is essential the plot of the story and the heartbreaking event is that they fall in love along the way. But the book, I feel, tells an entirely different story. Whilst I was reading I was overwhelmed by the idea that, contrary to popular belief; this was not a love story. Films and books nowadays have the very untidy habit of categorizing too easily as either Romance or Not Romance, as if thats all the matters in the world and there are no other important story arcs to be explored.

I feel this book tells a story of awareness more than it does of romance.

Whilst on her mission, Louisa takes them horse-racing through which they struggle to find parking; and when they do there is little access, not a place to eat almost privately as Will can not feed himself, as well as the general treatment of the disabled.

When it comes to the British, we seem to find it difficult to get over our bewildered embarrassment of not knowing how to act, what to talk about and how to conduct oneself around disability not to mention how to deal with the challenges that the disabled community are faced with. In Me Before You, we are enlightened on the struggles of everyday life; wheelchair access being an everyday task; the lack of support through activities and social life, leading to a very lonely existence; like Will. I’m not saying this is the case for every member of the disabled community, but simply that it does happen and surely we’re a bunch of clever enough people to do something about it, right?

For myself, that increasing awareness has opened my mind that little bit more to a society within our own,  pushed into the corner of the room like a broken toy we don’t know how to fix and so is forgotten.

I feel that this message was lost in the film portrayal; the idea of fluffy romance masking a much more thoughtful perspective. However, the case of disability awareness was not the only lost cause in the film and frankly. I feel this one was blocked out intentionally. Putting it lightly, I’m not a happy bunny at all (pokes tongue out with a frown).

Probably the most heart wrenching part in Me Before You is when we find out, on one of their adventures that takes them to the maze by the castle nearby, that a younger, live-life-to-the-full Louisa was raped by a boy. This traumatic experience made Louisa lose confidence in herself; she no longer wants to go off into the world, but would rather stay at home to what she knows. Our initial interpretation of Louisa being a simple girl: obliterated. No woman who has been violated to that extent could be thought as straightforward.

Simple. As. That.

I think that really hits home with the whole life lesson of:”don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” In this case, a woman.

Now in the film; not a blip of this was mentioned. This made me quite annoyed at how we as the audience were now being suggested to view the duo. Tragic Will, who lived so much, explored and conquered the world; never again. Sweet, simple Louisa, who liked crazy clothes and makes a banging cup of tea, enchanted by our much lived and cultured Will. Nothing about how Louisa had all means of exploring the world, nor how safety and security was taken away from her in her own skin. Why wasn’t this message screamed loud and clear?

We live in a generation where we are standing up as individuals for our voices to be heard and because we believe that it will make a difference. We’ve seen it happen; gay marriage being legalized in the United States, and we’re seeing it now through #BlackLivesMatter which is taking social media by storm.

I just felt like we were being coaxed into this adoration of Will and that Lou, and whichever achievements she conquered herself, could never compare to Will, that this idea of worship and oggling of him is encouraged.

A slap in the face for equality. *Bravo*

Rant over.

 

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Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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“I’m starting to think you like prisons,” he says, idling knocking his knuckles against the wall. “And that you have the worst taste in men.”

I’ve been really excited about talking about this one!

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Back in June, I read the first installation to this series Red Queen, following my intense AS level exams which I proceeded to fail. Nevertheless, really enjoyed this book and said I would definitely be reading the second installment, also stating I was poor and couldn’t afford to buy books.

Well, I bought the book and still poor.

And Glass Sword… woah.

Prior to reading this I skimmed through some goodreads reviews and upon meeting numerous negative takes, was preparing for an O K A Y read.

Well, I loved it.

It was different and everything I wanted from the series (if not enough when it came to the finale WHAT THE HELL GUYS HOW COULD YOU DO THAT VICKY?), was fluffy and nerve wracking and overtime they went into a city my fingers were gripping the pages praying that nobody died.

Mare’s character has really come along way since when we met her at the beginning of Red Queen, a focus which grows through the book as we watch Mare, frankly get darker and darker until we don’t trust her.

I don’t trust her.

I was a tad disappointed with the simple lack of attention to poor Kilorn and I’m sure he feels the same.

The “romance” if you can even call it that, between Cal and Mare was frustrating. Mostly because its difficult to see a future for them where they are set on equal ground. I love Cal, probably my favorite character of the whole series and I just felt so so so sorry for him this entire book.

Damn, if Mare doesn’t want him; I’ll happily relieve that burden from her shoulders.

Hated Maven, but that’s standard.

CAN NOT BELIEVE SHE KILLED SHADE.

HOW DARE SHE.

MY JAW HIT THE BLOODY BASEMENT FLOOR. (not that I have a basement)

And Farley is defo preggo right guys?

Need the next book now.

No joke.

I am going to end up homeless on the street living in a book igloo.

“Every single thing I did, you stood behind me,” I say. “If I’m turning into a monster, then so are you.”
“Love blinds.”

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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“Ah! this morning! You have lived since then.”

First of all, loving the cover of this one!

I really did enjoy reading this book; some extremely heavy moral lessons to be taught as well as interesting symbols which hit hard.

But honestly; #UnpopularOpinion : I really simply do not like Oscar Wilde.

All of these characters; I hated.

I hated quotes such as this

“My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”

Yeah, Lord Henry Wotton can go do one.

I hated the whole idea, vanity and selfishness and heartlessness and ugh.

I simply wanted to punch Dorian Gray in the face, Hermione-style.

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I think because I just hated everything about this book made me really love it. Its intense; its not pretty, Wilde had the ability to project his thoughts so beautifully and poetically, a story was being shared so visually.

But c’mon guys, why were you surprised he turned out to be gay?

–Love?
-An Illusion.
–Religion?
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
–You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
–What are you?
-To define is to limit.”

I enjoyed it but I enjoyed disliking every character strongly.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: Going back to Neverland

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“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!”

I read this little gem a few weeks back on my way to Brighton for the day, if you’re Instagrammers you would have seen a few posts of the last sunny day in Britain to be fair.

Would like to say, this was my first time ever reading Peter Pan.

Now that I’m saying it, although I’m typing, out loud it really does sound like the title Bookworm doesn’t even belong to me.

I’ll try and justify myself then.

“She asked where he lived.

Second to the right,’ said Peter, ‘and then straight on till morning.”

When I was little I was a huge fan of the Disney movie of course, because what 5 year old wasn’t? Also, I grew up with Hook starring the late great Robin Williams on V I D E O, as well as having a crush on the new (?) adaptation of Peter Pan, Jeremy Sumpter back in 2003. Yeah. That was 13 years ago.

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I’ll let that sink in.

Also, as a kid I think my mum got me the V I D E O of Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp, which admittedly I didn’t enjoy as much at the age of six and, to be fair mum; what were you thinking? Most depressing film in the world. For a six year old. Who thought she was about to watch Peter Pan; with an actual Peter Pan in it.

I digress.

As you may have been able to tell, my experience of Peter Pan up until now had been largely visual, so the point I’m trying to get at is that it was quite interesting reliving the story through the pages of a book this time. I loved reading the words and seeing the scene so clearly laid out behind my eyes. Also, very impressed with the screenwriters for the 2003 adaptation; parts and extracts from the book were so accurate; making it all the more enjoyable experience.

It was nice to go back to Neverland again with older eyes, as I’ve grown up, Peter would have hated it.

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”

Twenty Poems by Rudyard Kipling

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I know I’ve been quite absent recently but what with a student schedule and a levels being the literal definition of hell; I haven’t been reading much. But here I am, talking about how I’ve read some books.

So I read my first book of poems recently; a new experience for the Jess.

 

And I really enjoyed it funnily enough. I can’t say I’m a huge poetry reader; it goes a little over my head to be honest. Maybe I’m not cultured enough.

But Mr Kipling really got me.

If, as always is a favorite of mine from the golden IGCSE days but it was lovely reading a little more of his work.

Also this book was 1 pound in the charity shop and was begging to be bought.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1918.

I really do love old books.

My favorite poems from here were The Secret of the Machines, If (of course), The Holy War, The Glory of the Garden (nothing says British like that!)

Poems which really stood out to me were The Children, The Beginnings and For All We Have And Are… do go and give them a read.

Thanking you, Mr Kipling, not only for the Jungle Book, but also this little gem of poetry which may have sparked the interest of probably the least poetic 18 year old, ever.

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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I have no idea how I came to acquire this book. I don’t remember buying it. I don’t remember receiving it. Within the pages is a receipt from 2012 at a bookshop in Egypt (not completely weird; used to live there) but I have no recollection of this book or how it came to be in my possession. Weird ha?

I really didn’t know what to think about this one after reading the blurb; the story claiming to be about a baby who grows up in a graveyard after its family is brutally murdered and is raised by the ghosts and spirits who reside in the graveyard accompanied by his guardian. And from there we watch Bod (short for Nobody Owens) grow up in the graveyard meeting the various spirits that live there. It was interesting!

I wish I had read this a couple of years ago when its writing style and story would have made much more of an impact but if I’m being completely honest, the cover put me off not to mention the frankly morbid title. But I enjoyed it, and from me reading it I’ve realized actually how popular this fanbase is.

I was gripped as much as you could be from a book that says on the back Ages 10 and above.

Well, it is above…

Thank you Mr Gaiman, who I’ve realized and wrote many other cool books, for reminding me of the most important rule of conduct for a booknerd:

NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.

I’ll leave this little note here.

“Face your life, it’s pain, it’s pleasure. Leave no path untaken.”

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

 

A book stolen (not literally) from a charity shop; beaten and worn; its previous owner of whom wrote on the first page Judith, second name illegible, the date 1995; years before I was even born.

To sum it up; me and this bad boy were going to have some fun.

And isn’t it different?

I love a bit of Orwell; having read both 1984 and Animal Farm; in that order. I’ve been dying to get my hands on this one; not really being sufficiently within the funds to buy a brand new one from Waterstone’s, this charity shop treat was the perfect excuse to simply convince and assure myself ‘I definitely need this one’; never mind the fifty books yet to be opened.

Having never really read into Orwell and the context in which he wrote in; him being an Etonian came of a bit of a shock to me as well as the fact of Eton’s education system dismissing English Literature as a simple pastime, not something to be taught back in the day: oh how the other half live! It also makes me wonder what form Orwell‘s writing would have taken if he had have been able to pursue it at school. Would he be the much loved and adored author we know? Or just Eric?

On to the book, then.

Knowing Orwell‘s schooling; it came as a great surprise to see and wonder just how on earth this probably well-off man, managed himself in the immense poverty in which he immersed himself into quite willingly; if not forcefully. His writing speaks volumes also on what he shied away from; anything luxurious or had worth to it. He drowned in the working class society of Paris; yet his writing was not solemn and self-pitying, but full of pride and an air of snobbishness which he seemingly tried to cover up. It is almost as if he loves it; he loves the poverty and having nothing.

Or is he simply able to live and experience it without the prejudice as he is able to have a hand on the safety button and escape from it all; his peers and family happy with that decision.

So as much as he tries to kid himself throughout this type of memoir of poverty, I still believe that the old Etonian is very much alive in him.

But don’t get me wrong it was a huge insight into that world which one can’t deny is utterly alien to our own; you don’t know poverty until you’ve read this book. 

 

These two extracts stood out at me; first for Orwell‘s utter Britishness and then for being a wise fella.

There are, indeed, many things in England that make you glad to get home; bathrooms. armchairs, mint sauce, new potatoes properly cooked, brown bread, marmalade, beer made with veritable hops- they are all splendid, if you can pay for them.

Basically he named the most British things…

Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised?–for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modem talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ‘Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it’? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modem people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.

This one hit home…