Penguin Books, 2012
“I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, if you’re stuck in (this chair), all you have are the places in your memory that you can go to.”
RATING: 4.25 out of 5
Okay first things first: The guy chose to die in the end. Sorry to reveal that but I need to. Next thing I need to write on this one is that there are only few books that made me cry, A BIT, like Nicholas Sparks’ “A Walk to Remember” (yes I cried a little on that one and that was back on high school). But the difference in that book to this one is that I felt the readers and the girl protagonist (the one with the bumblebee socks in the trailer, I know you watched it) did not have much choice in the end but to let the guy die, which is weird because on Spark’s book the girl there died due to Lukemia and they did not have much options, but this one they do have options, they do have a choice, a fucking 6-month options to veer the ending to a happy one, but in the end, they realized that the ending is not for them to make and that was what makes this book fucking heart-wrenching, and Jojo Moyes I hate you for making me cry.
There, that’s the reason I revealed the ending, because I did not have much choice, I need to reveal it up before writing my review.
I confess that I did hear about the book only after watching the trailer for the movie adaptation, which makes me a poser (I do call those people reading a book because there will be a movie of it, or right after watching it). So without further ado here’s the obligatory paragraph telling us the synopsis of the book, please stay with me.
Will Traynor was a wealthy man who enjoyed life to its fullest, went on to many risky adventures, partying non-stop, having sex with beautiful girls, the typical guy. He had a perfect life until he becomes permanently disabled due to an unfortunate road accident. Two years later, here comes Louisa Clark, an unambitious woman with very few qualifications. She comes to work for Will as her carer and will soon find out that her job is more than caring for the disabled and unattached Will but rather to make him see that there is still a world out there for him, a world he can enjoy despite being different on what he use to have. And this Louisa must do in 6 months before Will takes his life out.
“I see all this talent, all this energy and brightness, and potential. And I cannot for the life of me see how you can be content to live this tiny life. This life that will take place almost entirely within a five-mile radius and contain nobody who will ever surprise you or push you or show you things that will leave your head spinning and unable to sleep at night.”
So let’s start with Louisa Clark, the female protagonist of the story. It is brilliant for Moyes to have a character who is so opposite Will, a character whose only adventure involves feeding ducks in their city’s pond. The story revolves around her struggle to make Will see that living is better than dying when she herself does not want how her ordinary life is transpiring. How she succeeded in making Will see the light on his situation while trying to live her life more than what she did in so many years, is a story worth reading.
The way the author builds her character, (her childhood, her family, the reasons why she is contented to live a life in her tiny town), is smooth verging on profound, the character Louisa having deep contemplations about life all over the chapters which makes the book somewhat more elevated amongst its YA books pears.
“It’s just that the thing you never understand about being a mother, until you are one, is that it is not the grown man. You see all the people he has ever been all rolled up into one. I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history. That’s what he was asking me to extinguish – the small child as well as the man – all that love, all that history.”
What I like about this book is that it was interjected by three other point of views one of which is Will’s mother Camilla, your typical high society mother. As you read her chapter, the story shifts, making you see the different side of things, not just Louisa’s struggles or Will’s resolve, but rather how his family, particularly his mother, is dealing with his situation. I am still not sure if this chapter should be included or deleted on the novel, but a part of me knows upon finishing the chapter, that Camilla’s story somehow should be heard and if we take a look on the whole story, it is really is a part of it.
“But I want him to live if he wants to live. If he doesn’t, then by forcing him to carry on, you, me – no matter how much we love him – we become just another shitty bunch of people taking away his choices.”
I like Nathan, Will’s medical carer (the legit one) and I was extremely glad to have read his chapter. By including his point of view in the story we somewhat knew about what was going on inside the head of Will, why he decided to take the choice of ending his life rather than living with his family. This might be the flaw of the novel, it failed to introduce the point of view of Will, his struggles, his story, his crushed dreams. Maybe the author is not brave enough to dwell on the dark corners of Will’s thinking.
Will’s chapter is on the beginning but it is just for introduction and we barely glimpse the thinking of the man who became a quadriplegic, so it is quiet welcoming to have Nathan come in because he alone can understand Will, being a guy who became close to him and also because he was the professional one, he alone understands more than anything the difficulties being faced by disabled persons every day of their life. There are chapters scattered all around the novel which tried to bring focus to the flight of those people like Will but for someone reason, I get to listen more and feel more their pain by listening to Nathan than reading the emails of disabled persons Louisa talks to in the internet.
“This is exactly the time you have to think about it. This is the time when, like it or not, you finally have to work out what you are going to do with the rest of your life.”
And finally there is Katrina, Louisa’s younger but more determined sister. I thought including her point of view in the story is just a convenience, as I mentioned, the author seems to shy away when things get darker and tend to shift the point of views to characters which are easy to write. I don’t get it because there are other scenes especially in the castle maze that I think the authored nailed, and turning away on such opportunity to make the novel more meaningful is such a waste. But Katrina’s character is nothing but a necessity, an anchor to guide Louisa in her journey towards being free from her own little world.
“We sat there together for a while longer, two people lost in remembered music, half hidden in the shadow of a castle on a moonlit hill.”
Have you ever encountered a story which is so different from your life but still you can entirely relate to? That’s what I feel about this story of Will and Louisa. In some ways I am both of them, adventurous and at the same time living in a small world, lost on my way to I don’t know what, but somehow this book reminds me that I should not be lost, I could never be lost. I am on my way; I’m just trying to figure out how to live, and live well.
“Don’t think of me too often. I don’t want to think of you getting all maudlin. Just live well.
Throw the doors open.’ Will nodded towards the outside. ‘I want to see it.’
I hesitated, then slowly opened the glass doors out on to the terrace. The rain hammered down on to the hotel complex, dripping from our roof, sending rivers running away from our terrace and out towards the sea. I felt the moisture on my face, the electricity in the air. The hairs on my arms stood bolt upright.
‘Can you feel it?’ he said, from behind me.
‘It’s like the end of the world.’
I stood there, letting the charge flow through me, the white flashes imprinting themselves on my eyelids. It caused my breath to catch in my throat.
I turned back, and walked over to the bed, seating myself on its edge. As he watched, I leant forwards and gently pulled his sun-browned neck towards me. I knew just how to move him now, how I could make his weight, his solidity, work with me. Holding him close to me, I leant across and placed a fat white pillow behind his shoulders before releasing him back into its soft embrace. He smelt of the sun, as if it had seeped deep into his skin, and I found myself inhaling silently, as if he were something delicious.
Then, still a little damp, I climbed in beside him, so close that my legs touched his, and together we gazed out at the blue-white scorch as the lightning hit the waves, at the silvered stair rods of rain, the gently shifting mass of turquoise that lay only a hundred feet away.
The world around us shrank, until it was just the sound of the storm, the mauve blue-black sea, and the gently billowing gauze curtains. I smelt the lotus flowers on the night breeze, heard the distant sounds of clinking glasses and hastily drawn-back chairs, of music from some far-off celebration, felt the charge of nature unleashed. I reached across for Will’s hand, and took it in my own. I thought, briefly, that I would never feel as intensely connected to the world, to another human being, as I did at that moment.
‘Not bad, eh, Clark?’ Will said into the silence. In the face of the storm, his face was still and calm. He turned briefly and smiled at me, and there was something in his eyes then, something triumphant.
‘No,’ I said. ‘Not bad at all.’
I lay still, listening to his breathing slow and deepen, the sound of the rain below it, felt his warm fingers entwined with mine. I did not want to go home. I thought I might never go home. Here Will and I were safe, locked in our little paradise. Every time I thought about heading back to England, a great claw of fear gripped my stomach and began to tighten its hold.
It’s going to be okay. I tried to repeat Nathan’s words to myself. It’s going to be okay.
Finally, I turned on to my side, away from the sea, and gazed at Will. He turned his head to look back at me in the dim light, and I felt he was telling me the same thing. It’s going to be okay. For the first time in my life I tried not to think about the future. I tried to just be, to simply let the evening’s sensations travel through me.