Published by Penguin/Michael Joseph
24 September 2015
Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .
Back in October 2011, I read Me Before You, or I should say I sobbed my way through it. Here are my thoughts from that time:
This was one book that I was really sad to come to the end of. From the beginning, I became totally immersed in the lives of Louisa and Will – both were such believable characters and they, together with their respective families, Nathan the nurse and Louisa’s sport mad boyfriend Patrick, made for a wonderful story. 35 year old Will, once a successful city high flyer and a real action man is now a quadriplegic following an accident and is frustrated and bitter at the way he has to live and wants to end his life. This is a difficult and controversial subject but JoJo Moyes has dealt with this sensitively and has managed to bring humour and light, as well as sadness into the story. Louisa, who at 26, has had a series of dead end jobs and who knows nothing about nursing, is contracted to be Will’s carer for 6 months whilst his family try to change his mind. The way Louisa deals with Will and his acidic put-downs to plan a series of events and adventures to show him that his life can be fulfilling and worthwhile is both amusing and moving. It was lovely to see their friendship growing throughout the book and the positive effect that Will had on Louisa’s attitude to life. I adored this book and would recommend it wholeheartedly.
So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that there was a sequel. I had it on pre-order so that it came through the letterbox on the day of release. I was extremely fond of these characters and couldn’t wait to find out what happened after Me Before You. I also knew that any subsequent book would have an awful lot to live up to.
Some people have said that After You, the sequel, can be read as a standalone. I disagree. I think that to get the best out of this story you need to know how much Will meant to Lou, and that means reading Me Before You first.
After You begins 18 months after the previous story ends. Lou has spent time working in Paris before moving to London. However her flat doesn’t feel like home and she has made no effort to make it feel like one and hasn’t even unpacked her boxes. She works at an Irish themed airport bar, for a horrible boss, serving drinks and cleaning toilets whilst being made to wear a dreadful glittering emerald green uniform and wig. Its a job; just a job that pays the bills and it feels safe. She is not living, just existing. Will is still ever present in her thoughts and despite her promise to him “to live”, her life has come to a standstill and her grief and loneliness are holding her back.
Lou and her family were always wonderful characters and could add a touch of humour and they certainly do so in this story, her parents particularly. Being reunited with them was like meeting with old friends and made me realise just how much I had missed them.
There were several new faces introduced, partly by way of the Moving On Group that Lou joins and despite her initially not wanting to be there, this group of people turned out to be an important part of Lou’s life providing moments of laughter and sadness. There was one new face that I wasn’t quite so keen on and although I did eventually soften towards her most of the time I wanted to shake her. Even when reasons were given, I still didn’t think it excused her selfish behaviour and there were times when I wanted to shake Lou too, for putting up with it.
18 months on, people were never going to be the same. The Traynors’ lives had moved on; each trying to cope in their own way. The scenes with Mrs Traynor were particularly moving and emotional. One of Lou’s strengths (and at times weakness) was her loyalty and compassion and this came across in spades throughout.
I’m trying not to give away too much detail about the story as I really don’t want to spoil this for those who have yet to read it. Lou was always my favourite character and I really wanted her to find a way to live with the past but also to have a future. Will was such a strong character and would always be a hard act to follow.
I was expecting to need copious amounts of tissues but unlike Me Before You, this book didn’t make me cry, however I loved the humour that sat alongside the sadness. It wasn’t perfect and the storyline concerning Lou’s mother didn’t quite work for me, I thought at times it was a bit OTT and I didn’t like the direction her character was heading. Having said that, overall it was an emotional and moving read and one of the few books that I may want to read again. I am so pleased that there was a sequel as Lou’s story deserved to be told. As usual with Jojo’s books, it was a joy to read and I had no hesitation in giving it a 5* rating. I miss Lou already and would love to see her return with a catch up story in the future, even if only as a novella/short story.
About the author:
Jojo Moyes is a novelist and a journalist. She worked at the Independent for ten years before leaving to write full-time. Her novels have all been critically acclaimed and include the Sunday Times Number One bestselller The One Plus One and the global phenomenon Me Before You, which has sold five million copies to date.Jojo lives in Essex with her husband and their three children.