Book Review: Me before You by Jojo Moyes

The best book I've read in this year so far. And I one of the best books I've ever read. The cover page didn't do any justice to the story inside. The cover makes the book look like just another chick-lit, but it has more depth than that. It's a extraordinary tale, not a cheesy Hollywood romance. 

Louisa Clark unexpectedly loses her job at a cafe and under pressure to earn money accepts the job as a helper to quadriplegic, Will Taynor. Will, an energetic, intelligent young man loses his limbs in a motorbike accident. He's doomed to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, taking pain meds and fighting infections. He therefore loses hope of a future and attempts to kill himself, after which his mother promises to accept his decision of assisted suicide provided he gave her six months. Will's mother hires Louisa for six months to keep an eye on him in case he decides to kill himself again. Will treats Louisa with contempt from day one. After enduring his rudeness for a few days, she starts answering him back rudely, which takes him by surprise. Slowly a friendship develops between them. To her shock, she learns about Will's decision of assisted suicide and confronts Will's mother about it. Will's mother requests her to keep him happy in the meantime in the hope something would happen to change his mind. Louisa researches and plans his every day in an attempt to generate hope in him and to keep him happy. In the process she falls in love with him.  Will she succeed in changing his mind?

The author wrote the book as realistically as possible. As a reader I totally understood why Will would make such a request to his mother even though it's selfish of him to do so. His mother is not heartless, she had no choice. I read Lousia's plans with desperation, really hoping that she would win. But sometimes, money and people you love are not enough to keep a person happy. It's also important to have hope about future. When that is lost, dark thoughts creep in.

It also makes me wonder, once again, what is the meaning of living? If you are satisfied with your life of going to office and coming home and watching telly in a small town, is it not living? Is everybody required to travel, to take risks, to live in a big town, in order to prove that they are 'living' too? What does this say about generations of Indian women who spent their entire life in the Kitchen, first cooking for husband and then for grandchildren. Have they not lived? And yet why do we remember them with love? Are they not living in our hearts? Their lives are not worthless. They too did something to shape the lives of their children. I felt that Will forced his idea of living on her by criticizing her constantly. It's only because of his idea of living that he found it difficult to accept his new life. 

I loved the friendship between Lou and Will. I loved the way he changes her life forever and for the better. I loved the determination with which Lou tries every possible way to change his mind. I loved Lou's family. This is the kind of book which makes you wonder what you would have done in his place, and secretly thank god that you are not in his place. This is one book which is oddly satisfying even though by the end it brings tears.This book also raises lot of questions. Is assisted suicide the only option available for a quadriplegic? Isn't he inflicting his pain on his family while he rested in peace. Would his family ever be able to live in peace after this? Would there be a different ending if he met her right after the accident, before losing all hope? 

I'd suggest everyone to take this book as a beautiful romance in unusual conditions rather than concentrating on ethics of assisted suicide. The characters certainly were so beautiful that they'd stay with me for a long time. My rating 5/5.

Book Review : Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

It took me a long time to move on from A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry. I had to reread a few of my   favourite books to come out of the mood, which made me apprehensive about selecting my next book. I was not in mood for reading serious stuff, so I searched for a romantic novel and liked the title Eleanor and Park. The blurb and the cover page looked promising. It was the highest voted book on Goodreads, so I started the book with high expectations.

Here's a summary of the book: It's the story of Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan, two teenage, star-crossed lovers, set in 1986. Both of them are misfits in the school full of white people: he being half-Korean and she being fat and poor. Eleanor and Park first see each other in their school bus when Park reluctantly shares his seat with her. He swears at her while offering the seat and feels embarrassed sitting beside her. However, over the next few days, he warms towards her and gradually they bond over comic books and music. Eleanor comes from a poor family with four siblings and abusing step father while Park has a big home and parents who still love each other. Eleanor finds comfort his home and starts spending more time with him. Park struggles to understand her background and mood swings.They gradually learn more about each other and fall in love. Things take a ugly turn in the end and the lovers are forced to separate owing to the circumstances.Whether the love is just a high school crush or if it stands the test of time and distance is the rest of the story.

I should say the book didn't disappoint me even though it wasn't as mesmerising as it promised to be. The problem might just be me. I was not able to relate to the story well. I couldn't relate to the comics or the music bands discussed all through the book. It was very difficult for me to understand why a woman who cannot support herself would give birth to five children at a very young age and then go on to marry an unloving, abusing person. There might be many downsides to Indian culture, but thanks to it we need not fear separation of parents and abuse of step father/mother, one of the major issues, I observe, teenage protagonists in novels face in western culture.

The first love was, however, depicted beautifully. It really makes us remember how it is to love and to be loved, how even the touch of hands makes us wonder if hands are full of nerve endings that send shock all over the body. The last few pages were the best part of the book. It isn't surprising if they bring tears to our eyes and then we realise how much we connected to Eleanor and Park.

Pick it up if you want to relive your teenage memories. My rating 4/5.