Penguin £7.99

Me Before You, By Jojo Moyes

Listen and learn from an odd couple

Louisa Clark is forlorn when she loses her beloved café job; not even her marathon-mad boyfriend can cheer her up.

She is wandering aimlessly in and out of the job centre when she's offered a six-month contract as a companion to quadriplegic Will Traynor, a former adrenaline junkie and City worker whose life has been intractably changed by a run-in with a motorcycle. They make an unusual pair, throwing each other completely off-balance. Indeed, the whole venture gets off to a bad start when Will welcomes her with his best Christy Brown impression. Will has given up on life and Louisa is determined to change his mind, but Louisa's limited ambitions frustrate Will: the town in which she lives with her family has been her whole life, and for reasons which become clear later in the novel, she's fiercely attached to the idea of keeping it that way. Louisa, it seems, is fated to live an adventurous life solely through her wardrobe: emerald green satin pumps, blue sequinned shorts and a "Pucci-type" mini-dress made from her grandfather's curtains.

If you think this tale sounds obvious – she brightens his life, he acts as her Pygmalion – think again: Jojo Moyes draws on the skills she honed as a journalist to create a clear, candid picture of the practicalities of Will's situation – the health issues, the unrelenting pain – while her novelist's mind casts illuminating light on her characters' reactions to the highly emotive and topical subject of assisted dying.

Moyes enriches her characters as they react to the most challenging of situations, as well as to normal, everyday ones, in scene after well-wrought scene. There's a tragicomic outing to the horse races, and a delightful instance of Will and his male nurse advising Louisa on what to wear for a fancy evening. But it's a birthday dinner at Louisa's home that hits a particular high note, offering the most poignant moment of the entire book – its soul, really – as well as a pitch-perfect hilarious one, delivered by Will with a spot-on one-line zinger.

At times, Will's condition intrudes scarily into the novel – a sudden bout of pneumonia, a potentially fatal infection flaring up – but just as tangibly, a love story puts forth tentative tentacles: the first time Louisa shaves Will's face becomes a sensual experience that completely takes her mind – and the reader's – off any disability; the way she later removes a tag from Will's outfit in a concert hall drives that sensation home.

This is Lou and Will's story and Moyes is generous with both: while Will's unhappiness is flung into searing relief via a heartfelt explanation of why he doesn't want to return to his favourite Parisian café, equally powerful is Louisa's initial reaction to classical music. "Tell me something good," Will says to Louisa at two transformative junctures of the book: Me Before You, at its heart, is about two people who properly listen to each other; it is something good.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat