The Jojo Moyes book, ‘Me before You‘, is coming out as a film this week and it seems there’s a swathe of people speaking out about the way it devalues those with a disability. Blogs, articles and Facebook pages have raged about the disservice is makes to the disabled community.
Having and sharing an opinion is good, it is one of the beauties of the internet, having a balanced discussion and difference of opinion is even better.
I haven’t watched the film yet, so I can’t comment on it, but I have read the book and I suggest you read it too. If you enjoy funny, challenging story-telling about the complexity of life and love, and you don’t mind a sob, go read it. Leave this blog and go buy the book instead because I LOVED the book. The rest of this blog will have SPOILERS.
‘Me before you’ is a brilliant, heartbreaking novel about the complex and painful reality of someone you love making a fatal decision you fundamentally disagree with.
‘Me before you‘ tells the story of Louisa Clarke becoming a ‘carer/personal assistant’ for the wealthy Will Traynor the adrenaline junky city-type, who has become paralysed following an accident. After a while, Lou is horrified to find out that she has been employed by Will’s parents to be on suicide watch because Will feels life is not worth living. She then becomes determined to change Will’s mind and in doing so, the couple fall in love. Here’s the spoiler – Will still goes to Switzerland and takes voluntary euthanasia. It is harrowing and heartbreaking. All of the characters, except Will, want him to live. They want to love him into a better place but fundamentally they come to a point of believing that loving him means standing with him in this tragic decision.
‘Me before you‘ is a work of fiction
‘Me before you‘ sets out to explore a hard and complex life situation and it does so with humour and tenderness. It isn’t fact or promotion or a campaign for euthanasia, it is a clever and funny book about some of the darkest parts of life. I think there is a problem when we challenge fiction because it challenges our values. I believe fiction needs to be a safe place we can explore difficult and complicated issues, looking at them from various angles.
‘Me before you‘ is a tragedy, it isn’t portrayed as having a happy ending
‘Me before you‘ is a reflection of some true stories, this does happen.
Shouldn’t we face up to that and look at it from all angles?
Disability is portrayed as life changing and hard. Although that isn’t the experience of everyone with a disability, it is the experience of some. One view isn’t right and the other wrong. ‘Me before you‘ grapples with tough issues. I read the tragedy as being as much Will’s decision to end his life, as his disability, but that probably is a reflection of my own views.
We all have a choice as to whether we read a book or not. There are plenty of books I won’t read because I find them too dark, violent or gruesome. I don’t want that stuff in my head. I completely understand people who don’t want this stuff in their head either, in which case – don’t read the book.
Suggesting that fiction should only present the glossy side of life stops us from having hard conversations. Life is more grey than black and white. I have booked an evening out with my friend to watch the film but I expect to be traumatised by it and will take a box of tissues.
‘Me before you‘ gives some painful insights into society’s views of disability
I think ‘Me before you’ highlights some real issues facing those who have a disability, in particular, the hierarchy of disabilities but I that is a whole other blog.
‘Me before you‘ is more about the complexity of love and a person’s right to choose their own fate than disability
My personal view is that I would fight vehemently against our government introducing euthanasia. I think it would make the vulnerable even more so, but that is a very personal view. If I found myself in Lou’s position, loving someone who was determined to make this choice, I’m not sure what I would do. I hope I could love well.
The author of ‘Me before you‘, Jojo Moyes, has a son with a disability
Jojo Moyes has three children and her youngest is profoundly deaf. She has written about the personal horror of watching a close relative die slowly from a cruel and debilitating disease. I believe she was able to write so brilliantly about the intricacies of this situation because she has glimpsed them in her own life.
I am passionate about presenting disability in a positive light but my own memoir, ‘The Skies I’m under‘, shares the darkest times in my life and how I have been changed since the birth of my eldest son.
I, like many of the other bloggers, want to challenge societies views of disability. I want to see our perceptions of value and worth challenged. I want these things and yet when I read ‘Me before you‘, I didn’t feel it was stopping me from doing so.
It is good when fiction causes us to ask questions, to think more deeply about uncomfortable truths. And in doing so we all have a lot to learn about exploring the toughest parts of life, having a difference of opinion and learning how we disagree well.