Me Before You, Jojo Moyes (contains some spoilers)

It’s taken me a while to put together my thoughts on this book… There were bits I really liked but also bits I completely hated – and it’s been hard to balance those ideas into a coherent review.

Me Before You follows its protagonist Louisa Clark as she begins a new job, caring for quadriplegic Will Traynor,  who has been in a wheelchair with almost complete loss of use of his limbs since a road accident 2 years before the start of the novel. At first she finds him rude and difficult to get on with, but they soon warm to each other and find that they even begin to enjoy each other’s company. There’s just one point that ruins this: Will is planning to end his life at Dignitas in Switzerland in 6 months time. Lou sets out to convince him that life is worth living, and that he can be happy.

Normally when I write this blog, I try to avoid spoilers; I don’t want to give away what happens at the end. However, I honestly  don’t think I can write this review without revealing the end: if this bothers you then please don’t read any further!

Firstly, I really enjoyed the first half of this book. It was cheesy and predictable, but neither of those things put me off. As far as chick-lit goes it was pretty enjoyable and a quick page-turner. However, I hated the ending. Really hated it. Now, as it’s not a happy ending (sorry if I’ve spoiled that for you!) I’m sure most people will say it made them sad but it’s not that it was sad that bothered me. It just didn’t fit with the genre one bit. To my mind books can be either light-hearted chick-lit or a serious exploration of depression and dealing with recent disability – mixing the two together just doesn’t work. The ending felt disappointing rather than sad, and also a bit insensitive to be honest. I’m not really sure what message the author was trying to give but it might have been nice to finish with a little hope.

Enjoy the first bit of the book, but put it down without reading the ending, is my advice!

Hickory Dickory Dock, Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot is called upon to use his little grey cells to solve an unusual mystery in this classic Agatha Christie story.

Miss Lemon’s sister draws Poirot’s attention to some mysterious goings-on at the student guesthouse where she works: a series of highly unusual thefts (one shoe, boracic powder, lightbulbs, a rucksack which is discovered cut to pieces). Poirot gets involved, but the attempt to discover the culprit soon uncovers more secrets and events take a more serious turn when one of the students is murdered. Can Poirot find the killer before he/she strikes again?

As far as Poirot stories go, I actually found this one a little disappointing. The mystery was still good and the revelation of the killer was a complete surprise to me… but I felt that the novel lacked enough of Poirot and his deductions for my liking. There were huge chunks that were notable for his absence, and whilst he discovered the murderer at the end, it was more a tale of the police investigating the murder, with Poirot sort of added-in at times. There were also large sections of interaction between the students in the house which felt slightly irrelevant  (and also some terrible racial stereotyping which makes me, and I imagine many modern readers, feel quite uncomfortable).

Fast paced and still enjoyable, but not the best Poirot mystery by a long way.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that whilst I love reading I tend mostly to stick to novels, and the occasional collection of short stories. At times, I feel a little ‘guilty’ that I don’t read a wide enough selection of non-fiction, poetry and plays… but of course, when reading for pleasure it’s only natural to stick to your favourite forms of writing.

I always find plays a little odd to read anyway; it feels as though I’m not experiencing them in the right format. Surely their real value lies in performance and to read them takes away from that experience. You’re only getting ‘part’ of the text, so to speak.

Despite all this, I was really excited to read this adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I read the novel some years ago now and absolutely loved it, and most people I talk to who’ve read the book feel the same way. If you’ve not read it yet (why?), I would recommend you start with the novel.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time tells the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone,  who is a genius at maths (and about to take his A level in it) and enjoys Sherlock Holmes stories (this is by the way, where the title comes from). He also has Aspergers and finds the world a very difficult place to navigate: he finds people hard to understand because they talk in metaphors, he is unable to lie or understand why others do so and he hates to be touched. At the start of the play he has discovered Mrs Shears’ dog, Wellington, lying dead, with a pitchfork stuck in his side. Christopher decides that this needs investigating, although his father Ed, tells him absolutely not to go interfering in other people’s business. In the course of the play, Christopher uncovers more secrets than he expected and goes on a journey that tests what he is able to cope with.

The play works really well on a number of levels. For a start the story that it’s based on is so well thought-out and plotted that it is a strong basis for the play. It’s interesting to see how the first-person narrative has been adapted so that the play is told to us through several ‘voices’ telling us Christopher’s story in his own words. The jumps in character, time and location are deliberately jarring, trying to create for the audience a sense of the way Christopher views the world. 

Finishing reading this playscript has left me with two really distinct thoughts though:

1. I really want to go and see it performed on stage now.

2. I need to re-read Haddon’s novel because I’m sure I’ll love it just as much as I did first time around!