Sunday, 3 March 2019

Book club highlights on a bright, chilly morning...

It’s so lovely to see the sun this morning, after the strange, wild weather we had last week.  It’s a perfect morning for a steaming cup of chai tea and a delicious Date Bar - yummy and cozy.
My Volunteer Book Club met yesterday to discuss JoJo Moyes’ runaway bestseller Me Before You.  You are probably already familiar with the plot, having either read the book or seen the movie, but here is a brief summary.  In a small English tourist town, where the main feature is the castle, twenty-seven year old Louisa is quite happy working at a café and continuing in her long-term relationship with personal trainer boyfriend Patrick.  She lives at home with her mom and dad, her granddad, her sister Treena and Treena’s toddle son Thomas. It’s cramped, but it’s home, and she is completely content… until the café closes and she must find another job to help support the family, since her father is always fearful that he may lose his job at the furniture factory.  After several non-starters, she finally takes a job as a carer for the Traynor family, looking after thirty-five year old Will, a quadriplegic who is entirely dependent on others for his daily survival. Two years earlier, Will was living a good life as a high-powered company executive, taking exotic vacations and going on extreme sporting adventures, until he is hit by a motorcyclist on his way to work one day.  Will has given up the desire to live in this reduced state, and has agreed to give his family six more months, but then has booked an appointment at Dignitas, an organization in Switzerland that offers assistance for those who wish to end their lives with dignity. Unbeknownst to her, Louisa is hired to help change Will’s mind by changing his attitude and outlook on life and restoring his will to live.  I’ll say no more, because it is the uncertainty of her success that keeps the story going. I had four members who came out yesterday, and three had read this novel before. It came out in 2012, and since then, Moyes has written two more books following up on this story, which two of my group members have also read. They loved it. They loved Louisa’s character, her quirky family, the situations they found themselves in and the ways they reacted to them.  Everyone thought they seemed very “real”, and they felt that the ways Louisa grew and changed throughout the novel was moving and inspiring. We discussed the title, who was the "me" and who was the "you", and came up with some very interesting interpretations. We talked about Will, but less so than Louisa, and we discussed his family dynamic as well, his mother and father, and his relationship with his sister. We discussed his attitude towards his current situation, and agreed that he wasn’t really making much of an effort to adapt, that he has pretty much given up on things ever improving (and not just physically, but in terms of outlook and mindset).  I am the only one who did not enjoy the book, and am, coincidentally, the only one who focused more on Will than Louisa. I couldn’t help comparing his situation to the true account of Jean-Dominique Bauby, former Editor-in-Chief of French Elle who was stricken with sudden and total paralysis, or a type of stroke known as “locked-in” syndrome, where he could only blink his left eye.  And yet, he still managed to write a memoir of his life before this trauma, as well as what it was like to be “locked-in”. This brief memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, was brilliant and moving, an inspiration to live life to the fullest, because everything could change in an instant.  Compared to that, in my opinion, Will was a pathetic character who gave up too easily and too quickly. While reading this book, I had to remind myself that he’s just a fictional character whose main purpose is to change Louisa’s life.  It was a good choice for a book club, and a great discussion, and it forced me to read something I would never have read otherwise.
That’s all for today.  Get outside and enjoy the sunshine!
Bye for now…
Julie

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