Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Me Before You

Jojo Moyes

Me Before You cover artLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time

This was my book club read and I expected a bit of chick lit from reading the blurb. However this story is a whole lot more than that, and a better read for it. It totally outdid my expectations. There is a little hint in the blurb showing what the book is really all about but it totally passed me (and the others in my book club too, I am relieved to say) by. I do feel that maybe there should be a stronger suggestion of what is to come as this novel covers very sensitive issues and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you are all geared up for a light romance! That said I can’t write about this tale without referring to the subject it is really all about, so if you don’t want to know stop now!

Louisa is a fabulous character, a great mix of strength and insecurities she has a boyfriend who is obsessed with running Triathlons and a sister who has stolen the limelight at home. Still living with her parents Louisa is one of the main bread winners and when she loses her job this is a catastrophe. After a series of disastrous attempts at new jobs Louisa ends up as a carer to Will who has been in a motorbike accident and is now a ‘quad’, quadriplegic. She has no experience of this kind of work but needs it too much to walk away.

From this premise we go on a journey with both Lou and Will as they learn about each other and about life. It is obvious (and is some ways Louisa is slow to catch on) that Will is unhappy with his

life, and Jojo demonstrates clearly the devastation his accident has caused and the on-going suffering and indignities he endures. These trials faced by Will run deeply, not just the loss of his old life, his inability to move and do things for himself and the difficulties associated with total dependency on others for virtually everything, but also things that are less obvious; Will is often in pain (he can still feel despite being unable to move) and he lives in fear of illnesses that might be caused by his condition. In addition he has to deal with other people’s good intentions, the way they think they know what is best for him and what he should be doing. Previously Will led a life action, adventure and adrenalin highs. A big life. Now it is small and so restricted, the epitome of his worst nightmare and as Lou gradually discovers, he hates every moment of it.

Slowly their bond develops and Lou learns about Will, his condition, his moods, his frustrations and gradually she begins tro break down the walls around him. She makes plenty of mistakes along the way but it is these ups and downs in particular that make the story feel so real. This is also no one sided relationship. Will challenges Lou to break out of herself, to try new things. He makes her examine her relationships with her family and her fella. He pushes her to overcome the hurts from her past that hold her back. It is brilliant that Will brings as much to the relationship as Lou does. In their own ways they are both equally vulnerable, it is not just that Will needs Louisa, but she needs him too.

Obviously there is lots of emotion in this book and it is not just focused on Lou and Will. In particular Jojo does a great job of showing how this has affected Will’s family. Everyone has a different way to cope with the situation they find themselves in and the on-going strain on everybody is huge. Will’s mother appears cold and separate in the beginning but it is clear by the end that she has struggled to show Will how she feels alongside dealing with her own difficult emotions. I was drawn in by the depth of the characters; even those who only play a small role in the story still show some level of complexity. As it becomes apparent that Will is seeking to end his misery in a clinic in Switzerland the sympathy for the family becomes even greater. Lou cannot bear the thought of this and makes it her mission to prove to Will that his life is still worth living. Jojo handles these matters with sensitivity and manages to make you sympathise with many sides of the equation. The subject of euthanasia is so delicate and yet it is easy to understand how Will has reached the point of desiring to end a life which he despises and feels so useless in. Equally the horror and sadness that others feel for this is not diminished, neither are the reactions of those who want to support Will but have no idea how best to do this in such a situation.

As Will and Louisa become closer their relationship becomes more complex, it is always clear that, because of the situation, there is not going to be any straight forward happy ending to their story and watching them grow together this put me on tenterhooks. You will have to read it for yourself to find out how it does all end, but I will warn you to have a box of tissues at hand.

Verdict: This is a story of laughter and tears, overcoming difficulties and not overcoming them, loving and hurting and dealing with a whole range of emotions. But it is still a story of hope, of caring for others and learning to live happily in a difficult world. It is certainly a book that I would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 582
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Goodbye For Now

Laurie FrankelLove, loss and the extraordinary potential of social networking media come together to create a powerful, moving, unforgettable novel that will make readers laugh, cry and resolve to find their own true love.
Imagine a world in which you never have to say goodbye.
A world in which you can talk to your loved ones after they’ve gone.
About the trivial things you used to share.
About the things you wish you’d said while you still had the chance.
About how hard it is to adjust to life without them.
When Sam Elling invents a computer programme that enables his girlfriend Meredith to do just this, nothing can prepare them for the success and the complications that follow. For every person who wants to say goodbye, there is someone else who can’t let go. And when tragedy strikes, they have to find out whether goodbye has to be for ever. Or whether love can take on a life of its own.

This is one of those books that I have really been wondering where to start when I come to review it. I have chatted to couple of people about it whilst reading it and the thing is, there is so much to say! When we were offered the book to read, the blurb caught my attention but it has definitely exceeded my expectations.

So I’ll start with the plot, Sam is a computer whizz. He writes an algorithm to find your soul mate and it works! As a consequence he meets Meredith, the love of his life, but he also gets the sack from his job at a computer dating agency. They aren’t making enough money now and want to hush up Sam’s invention. This leaves Sam with a lot of time on his hands and when Meredith’s Grandmother, Livvie, dies and Meredith is devastated, he come up with an ingenious and unusual way to help. He uses all the technological data amassed between the two women to allow them to still communicate electronically with each other. At first Meredith is horrified at the idea of video chatting with her dead Grandmother but soon loves the whole thing and feeling so in touch with Livvie.

Following this, Dash, Meredith’s cousin, suggests they begin to offer dead mail to the masses and RePose is born. They become involved in the lives of many people and discover people have more reasons than they ever thought possible to want to communicate with their DLO’s (dead loved one). Then tragedy occurs and Sam has to find out for himself whether RePose really does any good.

Sam and Meredith are strong, well written and believable characters. Their relationship is lovely and the story also shows the ups and downs of family life in all it’s many facets. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on bereavement and grief. It was really interesting to see the huge variety of ways people have been effected and the wide spectrum of ways in which people try to cope and help each other through difficult times.

This is more than an innovative story, it introduces lots of thought provoking ideas and examines the ethics involved in the use of technology for such a purpose as this. This was the part of the book that I found most enthralling. Laurie cleverly weaves many questions into the narrative through the comments of others, the press, the church, other interested spiritual parties and through the families themselves. In addition Sam has his own internal dialogue through the whole process about its rights and wrongs.

This was a fascinating read. It was plausibly written and I could well believe in the ability of Sam to produce the technology (although in real life I hope we are some way off opening this can of worms!). Laurie gets the most out of her story, both the ethical side and the journey of her characters. I hope I’m not giving too much away by saying I liked the open nature of the ending. I usually don’t like this being a lover of a cut and dried happy ending but it was really appropriate to leave the characters at this point in their journey.

Verdict: If you like to read with your brain in this is a fabulous thinking read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Sci Fi, Bereavement
Age: Adult book review
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Received from publisher
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: The Gift

Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan (illustrator)

In a quiet town, of a sort not found nowadays, lives a beautiful young girl. One summer day, she visits the woods with her mother and father. While her parents prepare the picnic, she seeks out buttercups and daisies for a flower necklace. As she does so, a wish forms in her mind – and to her surprise, a silver haired woman appears, ready to grant it.

This book looks at the whole life of a girl who one day went for a picnic, found a clearing and decides that this is where she wants to be buried. It sounds quite morbid but it really isn’t. It’s a book that celebrates life and all that happens within it. The story highlights the main event in the girl’s life, there is little to no character development, in fact we never even find out the girl’s name, but that doesn’t matter. Part of the magic of this book is that it could be about anybody. All through the book, and therefore her life, the girl returns to the clearing. She plants flowers and creates stone towers in order to really make the place her own, until she returns there last, in her dreams, on her deathbed. The ending to this book is really bittersweet. This is another that it’s quite difficult to put an age too. It is aimed at younger children, but I think it would take a certain amount of emotional maturity for them to really understand and enjoy it.

The illustrations are a delight. They are in a single colour on each page and the colour reflects the mood of the page, which almost gives it a dreamlike quality. Whilst there aren’t huge amounts of detail in specific objects and people there is so much going on within the pictures. This means the book can be read time and time again and the reader will still find new things within the pictures. This is a big plus point as the nature of the story means that it’s difficult to get really involved with it so it was good that I found that the pictures really brought it to life.

Verdict: A bittersweet story of the circle of life backed up by truly delightful pictures.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Barefoot Books Ltd
Publication Date: October 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book, Death
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: Slog’s Dad

Author: David Almond and Dave McKean (illustrator)

Do you believe there’s life after death? Slog does. He reckons that the scruffy bloke sitting outside the pork shop is his dad come back to visit him for one last time- just like he’d said he would, just before he died. Slog’s mate Davie isn’t convinced. But how does this man know everything Slog’s dad would know? Because Slog says it really is his dad, that’s how.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Visually it is superb, the style very similar to ‘The Savage’, another Almond and McKean collaboration and I book that I adored. I love that some pictures look almost photographic until you look at the faces. I love the mainly green undertones that make the other colours stand out all the more. For once I also like that the pictures stand alone, with the story they tell told in an almost storyboard fashion. It is through these pictures that you see Slog’s pain at the death of his Dad, his hopes and dreams that one day he will return. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that the actual story is told by Davie, Slog’s best friend. The story told in words, is slightly more detached, it’s the pictures that give you an emotional context to the book.

It’s the story I have mixed feelings about. I think I understand the intention, but I found certain element quite creepy. This man looks nothing like Slog’s Dad and parts of Davie’s story seem to imply he is just indeed a random man. I think that the intention is just to show how someone can do something nice for a grieving small boy. That they can give them the comfort of knowing that there is something better out there. But I found the notion that someone could pretend in that way quite disturbing. This is a book set around 50 years ago however so maybe I placing my own more modern conception of mistrust unfairly in this case.

This shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is a very moving story that speaks very eloquently of love and loss.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Hardback
Pages: 64
Genre: Graphic Novel, Death
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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