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Me Before You
Jojo Moyes - Author
£7.99

Book: Paperback | 129 x 198mm | 528 pages | ISBN 9780718157838 | 05 Jan 2012 | Michael Joseph
Me Before You

Richard and Judy Book Club choice.

Lou 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.

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Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Find out what Jojo Moyes' readers are saying about her latest novel Me Before You

'Moyes does a majestic job of conjuring a cast of characters who are charismatic, credible and utterly compelling; Lou and Will are a couple who readers will take to their hearts as they did One Day's Emma and Dex.' - Alexandra Heminsley, The Independent on Sunday

Prologue

2007


When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed. She is wearing one of his T-shirts, and her long hair is tousled in a way that prompts reflexive thoughts of the previous night. He stands there, enjoying the brief flashback, rubbing the water from his hair with a towel.

She looks up from a brochure and pouts. She is probably slightly too old to pout, but they’ve been going out a short enough time for it still to be cute.

‘Do we really have to do something that involves trekking up mountains, or hanging over ravines? It’s our first proper holiday together, and there is literally not one single trip in these that doesn’t involve either throwing yourself off something or –’ she pretends to shudder ‘– wearing fleece.’

She throws them down on the bed, stretches her caramel-coloured arms above her head. Her voice is husky, testament to their missed hours of sleep. ‘How about a luxury spa in Bali? We could lie around on the sand . . . spend hours being pampered . . . long relaxing nights . . .’

‘I can’t do those sorts of holidays. I need to be doing something.’

‘Like throwing yourself out of aeroplanes.’

‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.’

She pulls a face. ‘If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll stick with knocking it.’

His shirt is faintly damp against his skin. He runs a comb through his hair and switches on his mobile phone, wincing at the list of messages that immediately pushes its way through on to the little screen.

‘Right,’ he says. ‘Got to go. Help yourself to breakfast.’ He leans over the bed to kiss her. She smells warm and perfumed and deeply sexy. He inhales the scent from the back of her hair, and briefly loses his train of thought as she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him down towards the bed.

‘Are we still going away this weekend?’

He extricates himself reluctantly. ‘Depends what happens on this deal. It’s all a bit up in the air at the moment. There’s still a possibility I might have to be in New York. Nice dinner somewhere Thursday, either way? Your choice of restaurant.’ His motorbike leathers are on the back of the door, and he reaches for them.

She narrows her eyes. ‘Dinner. With or without Mr BlackBerry?’

‘What?’

‘Mr BlackBerry makes me feel like Miss Gooseberry.’ The pout again. ‘I feel like there’s always a third person vying for your attention.’

‘I’ll turn it on to silent.’

‘Will Traynor!’ she scolds. ‘You must have some time when you can switch off.’

‘I turned it off last night, didn’t I?’

‘Only under extreme duress.’

He grins. ‘Is that what we’re calling it now?’ He pulls on his leathers. And Lissa’s hold on his imagination is finally broken. He throws his motorbike jacket over his arm, and blows her a kiss as he leaves.

There are twenty-two messages on his BlackBerry, the first of which came in from New York at 3.42am. Some legal problem. He takes the lift down to the underground car park, trying to update himself with the night’s events.

‘Morning, Mr Traynor.’

The security guard steps out of his cubicle. It’s weatherproof, even though down here there is no weather to be protected from. Will sometimes wonders what he does down here in the small hours, staring at the closed-circuit television and the glossy bumpers of £60,000 cars that never get dirty.

He shoulders his way into his leather jacket. ‘What’s it like out there, Mick?’

‘Terrible. Raining cats and dogs.’

Will stops. ‘Really? Not weather for the bike?’

Mick shakes his head. ‘No, sir. Not unless you’ve got an inflatable attachment. Or a death wish.’

Will stares at his bike, then peels himself out of his leathers. No matter what Lissa thinks, he is not a man who believes in taking unnecessary risks. He unlocks the top box of his bike and places the leathers inside, locking it and throwing the keys at Mick, who catches them neatly with one hand. ‘Stick those through my door, will you?’

‘No problem. You want me to call a taxi for you?’

‘No. No point both of us getting wet.’

Mick presses the button to open the automatic grille and Will steps out, lifting a hand in thanks. The early morning is dark and thunderous around him, the Central London traffic already dense and slow despite the fact that it is barely half past seven. He pulls his collar up around his neck and strides down the street towards the junction, from where he is most likely to hail a taxi. The roads are slick with water, the grey light shining on the mirrored pavement.

He curses inwardly as he spies the other suited people standing on the edge of the kerb. Since when did the whole of London begin getting up so early? Everyone has had the same idea.

He is wondering where best to position himself when his phone rings. It is Rupert.

‘I’m on my way in. Just trying to get a cab.’ He catches sight of a taxi with an orange light approaching on the other side of the road, and begins to stride towards it, hoping nobody else has seen. A bus roars past, followed by a lorry whose brakes squeal, deafening him to Rupert’s words. ‘Can’t hear you, Rupe,’ he yells against the noise of the traffic. ‘You’ll have to say that again.’ Briefly marooned on the island, the traffic flowing past him like a current, he can see the orange light glowing, holds up his free hand, hoping that the driver can see him through the heavy rain.

‘You need to call Jeff in New York. He’s still up, waiting for you. We were trying to get you last night.’

‘What’s the problem?’

‘Legal hitch. Two clauses they’re stalling on under section . . . signature . . . papers . . .’ His voice is drowned out by a passing car, its tyres hissing in the wet.

‘I didn’t catch that.’

The taxi has seen him. It is slowing, sending a fine spray of water as it slows on the opposite side of the road. He spies the man further along whose brief sprint slows in disappointment as he sees Will must get there before him. He feels a sneaking sense of triumph. ‘Look, get Cally to have the paperwork on my desk,’ he yells. ‘I’ll be there in ten minutes.’

He glances both ways then ducks his head as he runs the last few steps across the road towards the cab, the word ‘Blackfriars’ already on his lips. The rain is seeping down the gap between his collar and his shirt. He will be soaked by the time he reaches the office, even walking this short distance. He may have to send his secretary out for another shirt.

‘And we need to get this due diligence thing worked out before Martin gets in –’

He glances up at the screeching sound, the rude blare of a horn. He sees the side of the glossy black taxi in front of him, the driver already winding down his window, and at the edge of his field of vision something he can’t quite make out, something coming towards him at an impossible speed.

He turns towards it, and in that split second he realizes that he is in its path, that there is no way he is going to be able to get out of its way. His hand opens in surprise, letting the BlackBerry fall to the ground. He hears a shout, which may be his own. The last thing he sees is a leather glove, a face under a helmet, the shock in the man’s eyes mirroring his own. There is an explosion as everything fragments.

And then there is nothing.

Richard and Judy Book Club

Hi Jojo - one of the questions we have had over here on the Richard and Judy Book Club pages that we would love to hear your answer on, have you ever thought who you would love to play the parts in a film version of the book?

Hi everyone. I have lots of thoughts, but I particularly live the suggestion made here that Carey Mulligan would make a great Lou. Michael Fassbender for Will?


The Book Boutique

Have you ever cried while writing a scene in one of your books?

Yes I often cry while writing key scenes. I've found that if I don't cry then probably nobody else will. There are two scenes in Me Before You in which I wept copiously even while I was rewriting them (if you have read it you will probably guess which). So much so that my office neighbour once came next door to check that I was okay. He looked a bit disbelieving when I said that this was what I did for a living...

I found Me Before You a compelling read and the sensitive topic of disability was handled amazingly. You must have carried out a fair bit of research into what life is like for quadriplegics. What was this like and how much of it did you do?

I think it's my journalistic background but I'm a great believer in research. Over the years I've found that the information you find often alters the direction of the whole plot - and personally I love finding out new things. I loved Reading Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted To Tell You recently because I had no idea of the facial reconstruction they attempted in WW1 and it was fascinating. I did a lot of research online re the quad community, and luckily for me they put themselves on YouTube, showing every aspect of their daily lives. Slightly regretted the day I decided to watch the changing of a man's catheter tube online though - I'm not squeamish but I almost fainted!

Me Before You is such a fantastic, inspiring read- how did you come up with such an amazing plot? Will and Lou's story stayed me for weeks after I read the book- did the characters just stroll into your head, fully formed?

Unusually for me, yes, the characters did arrive fully formed (although Lou's backstory came later). It made the book enjoyable to write because I could stick them in any situation and know instinctively how they would react.


Roseanne Bantick

Hi Jojo How do you approach the writing process? Do you set aside so many hours a day or do you write for long periods of time until the novel is finished?

Hi Roseanne - I don't have a set writing time, as with children and animals I find that it usually gets eaten into by something. But I do aim to do a minimum 1000 words a day. For the last six months, while I've been trying to finish a book that I had rewritten extensively, I got up at 6am every morning to create a peaceful writing window. (I can't say this was an entirely joyous experience...!)


Angela Seymour

Hello Jojo, I loved Me Before You, it moved me to tears, and has stayed with me. I feel I know the characters and I find myself thinking about them as if they were real people long after I finished reading the book. An amazing feat! Do you have plans for your next novel?

Hi Angela - not sure if my last answer appeared, but my next book is called The Girl You Left Behind. It's very different from Me Before You but hopefully an emotional read too. Out September!


Donna Conway Godwin

Absolutely loved this book! Lou started to feel like part of my family and have really missed her since finishing it. How do you tear yourself away from your characters when you have completed their story.

Hi Donna. It's very odd, because you've spent a year 'living' with them. Lou and Will have definitely stayed with me more than most, largely because people are contacting me and discussing them as if they are real people.

Would love to have a go at writing a book myself but lack confidence. Did you just have a go or did you do Creative writing courses first? Just wondered how you got into it?

I didn't do any courses, but I sometimes wish I had. I did, however, write three books before I got one published. I think there's no substitute for just doing it and seeing what works...


Rachel Berry

Did you visit Dignitas in Switzerland? ‎( I loved Me Before You, listened to it on Audio book from Audible.co.uk once, loved it and immediately listened to it all again...I've never done that before!)

Hi Rachel - so glad you enjoyed the audio - I can't wait to hear it. And no, I didn't visit Dignitas, but I did research it heavily, especially a Guardian article that described what it was like to actually go there.


Claire Purcell

Hi Jojo, I wanted to ask about your process of writing - do you write your novels from start to finish, start at the end, or just start with an idea/character and see where it leads?

Hi Claire. I think writers divide quite cleanly into those who plot and those who don't and I'm very definitely in the former camp. You always find that the plot changes as you go through, and characters change, but I have to have some idea where I'm going. If you want to include plot twists I think it's especially important


Sharon Wilden

How did you come up with the storyline for Me Before You and when did you decide on what the outcome would be?

I came up with the idea after listening to a radio news story about a young rugby player who persuaded his parents to take him to Dignitas. I was really shocked and had to read more, to work out how any mother (of course you always blame the mother) could agree to that. The more I read, the more I realised it wasn't a clear-cut issue. And as for the ending, right up until the penultimate chapter I wasn't sure which way it would go...


Viviane Basset

What message would you like your readers to take away from Me Before You?

I guess I'd like to encourage people to look beyond a person's disability. It's often the least interesting thing about them once you get to know them. Also: life is short. Grab it with both hands!


Bethany Pridmore

I loved (!!) this book especially the ending – it made me laugh, cry and wonder….Were you ever tempted to change how it finished?

Yes I was tempted to change the ending. Without offering up any spoilers, I did approach my agent at one point and suggested writing a book with two endings. She basically told me not to be such a wuss...!


Rae Carpenter Ralfe

Would she consider doing a follow up book to Me Before You? A part #2!?

I have thought about this. I'm interested to know what Lou would do with her life. But I'm also conscious that there are a lot of sequels that don't match the first book, so it would have to be a really good idea to make me bring her back...


Sheshe O'Leary

Thank you for writing what is now one of my favourite books of all time. Me Before You would make a great movie. Who do you see playing the roles of Lou and Will?

Sheshe - oh that's a good question. A few readers have suggested leads to me already: favourites include Zooey Deschanel for Lou and James McAvoy or Michael Fassbender for Will...

Being Irish I would like to see MF play Will. I read somewhere recently another of your stories is coming as a movie. Are the stars cast for The Last Letter from Your Lover?

There is an option out on Last Letter, but I don't know how far along the process they are. It would be fascinating to see how other people see Jennifer and Boot though...


Alison Bond

Thanks for writing this book, I loved it. Lou has an incredible generosity, considering how the world has treated her, which is inspirational. Is her character based on anyone in particular?

Hi Alison - no, Lou is not based on anyone in particular ( I find that's a surefire way to lose friends!) but she is an amalgam of nice parts of people I know. The stripy tights were mine.


Rebecca Ritchie

Hi Jojo - You must have got so attached to Will and Lou whilst writing Me Before You, they are such wonderful characters. Which was your favourite part of the novel to write? I found the scenes on Mauritius particularly moving...

Hi Rebecca - I think the wedding was my favourite scene to write; that and Lou's birthday dinner.


Nicola Ridings Watson

In my mind Will would be played by someone like Matthew Fox (Jack in Lost), for me I see Will as having a considerable physical presence but not a pretty boy. But for Lou I see a dark haired Joanne Frogatt from Downton Abbey fame. How do you picture them Jojo?

Weirdly I had a much clearer idea of Lou's inside than her outside (if that doesn't sound weird!) but now I'm thinking a kind of dark haired Carey Mulligan. Will I could see very clearly - but he doesn't look like any famous actors I could describe...

I know exactly what you mean, a picture of Will's face is much easier for me to imagine, with Lou it's about her appearance and demeanor rather than her actual face.

And the stripy tights, Nicola. Don't forget the stripy tights...

Strangly I can picture every room inside her parents house. The family dialogue and the humour reminded me much of my own. Was there a reason that you'd not really done funny before? Now you know you're so good at (Even Richard and Judy said so) will you be doing more in future books?

Thank you. I guess I just know so many 'funny' writers that I wasn't sure I could do it. The one I've just finished isn't obviously funny (it's half set in Occupied France in 1916- not a barrel of laughs) - but I've tried to inject some humorous scenes into the modern day sections...


Tracey Wardhaugh

Paul Bettany as Will?

Hi Tracey... yes, I could go with Paul Bettany!


Ruth Johnson

The best book I’ve read for a very long time is Me Before You...I’d love to know what Lou does next?

Thanks Ruth. I may yet revisit Lou. I have resurrected a few characters in other books before and it's always fun when readers spot them.


Jen Balchin

Jojo, I thought Will's wealth was an interesting aspect of the novel. On the one hand it was a convenient vehicle for Lou's employment, the holiday, the opportunities he gave her, even the chance to go to Dignitas, and it created more of a difference between the characters. But it also meant he could hide from his family, become reclusive and feel his loss even more. Did you ever consider creating him as a more 'normal' character and think about how different his story would have been? Did you mean it to be a comment on how wealth affects people?

Hi Jen - some interesting points, and to an extent, yes. The life Lou's disabled grandfather lives is, in some ways, a happier one despite his crowded, chaotic home life. The main reason was that in the conventions of storytelling it was always going to be tough to get the reader to believe in Will as a romantic hero, so I had to give him some extra advantages so that he wasn't Lou's "inferior". Money gives him some power - to change her life, to do things, to buy equipment. If he'd had to scrabble around for money it would probably have been far more factually accurate (financial issues, sadly, go hand in hand with disability) but for the purposes of this story I needed him to have wealth.

I really liked the comparisons with the grandfather and found several moments involving him very poignant. Have you had experience of caring for someone with disability or someone very old?

Yes I have had two people close to me who required 24 hour care. I'm sure it fed into the writing...

I am sure it did and that's why it came across as so real and not sentimental.


Deborah Mika

This book sounds interesting as a reader who has never read any of your books before is it an ideal starting place and are there any others you would recommend as an introduction to your work?

Hi Deborah - yes, this is probably the best one to start with, but they're all very different. The Last letter From Your Lover and Ship of Brides are probably the next most popular (although I have a personal soft spot for Silver Bay).


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