Saturday, March 22, 2014

385 (2014 #13). Me Before You

by JoJo Moyes, 
read by Susan Lyons, Anna Bentink, Steven Crossley, Alex Tregear, Andrew Wincott, and Owen Lindsay

I listened to this audiobook because the title was #5 on a list of favorite book group reads for 2013 at the Reading Group Guides website, my public library had the audiobook, and I was looking for something to listen to on my commute the day I checked it out.

Twenty-six-year-old Louisa "Lou" Clark is an average British girl - not especially bright, still living at home in a small tourist town with her parents, still dating the same boring guy after seven years.  She loses her long-time waitress job when a local cafe closes, and has to find new employment, as her family (which includes her elderly grandfather and younger-and-supposedly-smarter sister Treena and her out-of-wedlock son Thomas) counts on her income.

Will Traynor is a thirty-something wealthy quadraplegic whose father Steven runs the castle, the local tourist attraction, and whose mother Camilla is a magistrate.  Before being hit by a motorcyclist while on foot, Will was a highly successful businessman who traveled the world and participated in extreme sports.

Lou is hired by Camilla as a companion and caregiver for Will.  Not so much for the medical stuff - handled by the competent Aussie Nathan - but more to keep an eye on him.  Lou learns (accidentally) that Will tried to commit suicide just before she was hired, and promised his family not to do so again for six months - if they would agree at the end of that time to take him to a Swiss clinic for assisted suicide.  Lou makes it her mission to change Will's mind in that six-month period.

I don't want to spoil the story, so I'll stop there.  I had mixed feelings about this book.  Parts of it dragged and were somewhat predicable.  Other parts were interesting and apparently well-researched - I learned a lot about medical issues facing quadraplegics.  The book definitely provokes some moral and philosophical questions, and I can see it generating a good book club discusssion (with the right group).  I had to wonder if I'd feel like often-sarcastic Will if I were rendered virtually helpless in an accident in the prime of life.  I had a bit harder time relating to quirky but good-hearted Lou, both because of her background and because of her sometimes grating stupidity.  I did find I cared about these two characters as their story continued.

Most of the story is told in first-person by Lou, but there are single chapters voiced by Camilla, Nathan, Steven, and Treena, as well as a third-person prologue and a final chapter (before Lou's epilogue) from yet another viewpoint.  Thus the six voices reading the audiobook.  None of these or the other supporting characters are particularly well-developed, and a few are a bit stereotypical.

Australian actress Susan Lyons does a marvelous job as Lou in the audiobook, and sounds appropriately British.  The rest of the readers are fine, with the exception of Alex Treager.  Her voice is too soft - not what I imagined for Lou's sister Treena, and I had to turn the volume way up to hear and understand her.  It probably didn't help that I already had a low opinion of Treena (and her bratty five-year-old son) even before Treager's narration.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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