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*