I’ve been conducting a strange test on myself recently. It’s not scientific, and can’t really be measured. Nor is it anyway controlled. The test is this: do I enjoy booked-turned-into-films more if I read it first, and then watch the film, or vice-versa?
It’s one of the most fundamental questions.
The latter was certainly true for The Time Traveller’s Wife, and then the former was true for Gone Girl. And then the latter again for Much Ado About Nothing, and then again, for Game of Thrones. So when the film promo for Me Before You by JoJo Moyes came upon my newsfeed one night, with all of Emilia Clarke’s (Game of Thrones) glory and Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) cheeky grin, I knew I wanted to read the book. And so, it seemed, did every other person in my community.
It took two-and-a-half weeks for the book to roll around to me, the humble third on the list of reservations at my local library. I squealed with excitement when I received the email for collection at work. At five-on-the-dot, I made a beeline for my local library and got my hot little hands on it.
For anyone who’s missed the hype or can’t use the Facebook Machine, Me Before You – the film – launches on June 3 in Australia. It’s based off the superbly-selling novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, British novelist known for The Last Letter from Your Lover, Silver Bay and The Ship of Brides.
The novel follows protagonist and narrator Louise (Lou) Clark, a cutesy quirky girl who has a cutesy quirky little job as a waitress at a tea shop in a cutesy quirky little English village known to be a tourist destination. Her life (which is all very cutesy and quirky) shatters when many of the businesses in the town close, and she loses her job. Desperate to do anything but kill roosters, she interviews for a job as a personal carer for Will Traynor, the 35-year-old son of a wealthy family within the village who is now a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident. Low-and-behold, she gets the job.
At first, Will Traynor is aloof. Lou knows there are many secrets she’s not privy to, but goes about her job in a professional manner, spurred on by her own financial issues. But Lou’s love of life and attitude sees her try to convince Will that there’s more to life than the four walls of his specially-built annexe home.
The story is formulaic in design – it’s a classic three-act structure, and the first act is written almost flawlessly. There’s enough comedy and intrigue to draw you in and keep you reading well past the fifty-page benchmark.
As much as I loved the semi-manipulative familial relationships, I never saw it as some kind of heartbreakingly romantic read. Lou, is at often times, a frustrating heroine, both in her naivety of Will’s situation and the fact that she views the world through her ‘rose-coloured’ glasses – as most twenty-somethings do. All her life, she’s stayed in her tiny village and had a job, not a career. Will, on the other hand, was a high-flying dare-devil lucrative businessman stereotype who is now frustrated at living ‘half a life’ in his chair.
Despite my criticisms of the novel, Moyes discusses the topic of disabilities and additional needs with sensitivity. Other major themes, such as body autonomy, death, and grief come into play, and again, Moyes handles these topics and reflects her thorough research skills and time spent with disabled members of her community. It amounts to a deep and poignant story not often seen within the romance genre.
It’s come to my attention that whilst doing this little test of mine, I’ve perhaps shot myself in the foot. I could, almost without a doubt, say that had I simply picked up this book at the library, or been recommended it, I would have enjoyed it more than I did. But film trailers do that to you – they get you hyped up. They show you all the best bits. I’ll still go to the cinema to watch it, though perhaps not as feverishly as I did in searching for the book (five bookstores, two libraries, one library ebook system, a big print catalogue, and three weeks on a reserve list).
Me Before You will be released in Australian cinemas on June 3rd. The book is available from all good bookstores and your local library.