Tag Archives: after you

STILL ME by Jojo Moyes

Most people have heard of (seen? read?) Me Before You (reviewed here), Jojo Moyes’ wrenching novel about Louisa Clarke and Will Traynor, the paraplegic whom she served as a personal companion and who opted for assisted suicide at the end of the book. Moyes followed up her bestselling novel with After You (reviewed here), about Lou’s life in England after Will’s death. And the third book in the trilogy, Still Me, takes Lou to New York City, where she is hired to be a companion to a rich woman on the Upper East Side.

So here’s the deal with Still Me. It’s not nearly as good as Me Before You, and not as good as After You, but it’s still dependably entertaining Jojo Moyes. She knows how to tell a good story. In this installment, Lou faces her share of challenges and issues, but overall the book punches a much weaker emotional wallop than its predecessors. It’s nice to see Lou gain more confidence and navigate some moral quandaries, and still come through on top in the end. The characters, from enigmatic Agnes to MBA pretty boy Sam, are memorable and occasionally surprising. But you pretty much know that things will end up OK for Lou, and they do.

If you’ve read the other two books and you want to see what happens next to Lou, then pick up Still Me. But don’t start off with Still Me – you’ll be missing out on the emotional core of her story.

I listened to Still Me on audio, which I recommend. It was narrated by Anna Acton, who narrated After You, and to me, she IS Lou Clarke. She had a slightly hard time with the American accents, but I loved her precise English delivery of the rest of the novel. The story kept me interested throughout, which made for an engaging audiobook.

AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You was a big hit when it came out a few years ago, and I really liked it too. It’s the story of Louisa Clark, a working-class young woman in England who is hired to take care of a wealthy paraplegic named Will. Louisa and Will develop an improbable friendship that deepens into something romantic, but Louisa loses him when he goes through with his plan to take his own life. (Incidentally, Me Before You is being turned into a movie – watch the trailer here).

Presumably at her fans’ urging, Moyes decided to revisit Louisa and wrote a sequel to Me Before You called After You, which picks up about a year and a half after Will’s death. Louisa has used the money Will left her to travel through Europe and buy a flat in London. But she’s still adrift, grieving his loss and toiling at a dead-end job as a bartender at an airport restaurant. One night, she returns home after a long night at work, and, while standing on her roof terrace, loses her footing and falls down one story to the balcony below. Louisa’s fall brings on the next stage of her life: a reconciliation with her family (after an estrangement due to her role in Will’s death), the introduction of someone from Will’s past, and a grief recovery group that leads Louisa to a possible love interest.

I enjoyed After You. The pacing is perfect (has this book been optioned yet?) and the characters are fresh and real. Sure, the writing and characters are sometimes cliched – Louisa’s family and her grief support group are textbook “quirky” – but Louisa is a compelling character to follow. She is relatable and self-deprecating, and you want good things to happen for her. Her romance has some ups and downs, and the emotional core of the book – Louisa’s relationship with the figure from Will’s past – is similarly bumpy. So while things don’t just sail along, this is classic Moyes territory – you have a general sense that everything will mostly turn out OK.

Is After You as good as Me Before You? No. It doesn’t pack the emotional punch of its predecessor. But it does take a look at grief from a number of perspectives, showing how the loss of someone you love can impact many facets of your life, with reverberations extending years past their death. And again, it’s classic Moyes – a satisfying page-turner.

I listened to After You on audio. The narrator, Anna Acton, was just perfect. Her precise British accent and her ability to moderate her voice to cover all of Louisa’s emotional states (insecurity, sadness, anger, lust) – they added up to a really good audio experience. Her voice was vaguely familiar to me, but I can’t find anything that she narrated that I’ve listened to before. I found myself eager to get back in the car so that I could resume listening to the audiobook – always the sign of a good book AND performance.

 

AFTER YOU by Julie Buxbaum

Buxbaum I picked up After You on a bit of a whim the other day – it seemed like a relatively light read, which I was in the mood for. In that respect, it didn't disappoint. It's the story of Ellie, a thirty-five year old woman from Boston, whose best friend Lucy is murdered in a tony London neighborhood in front of her 8 year-old daughter Sophie. Ellie, who is at a crossroads in her relationship with her husband, flies to London – for several months – to help take care of Sophie and process her friend's death. While there, she is forced to confront the problems in her marriage and learns about some problems in Lucy's marriage that she didn't know about.

I had heard of Julie Buxbaum before I bought After You. She is a fellow Harvard Law School alum who, like me, appears to have left the law for greener pastures. Her first book, The Opposite of Love, got good press, and I was curious to read one of her books. While I enjoyed After You and found it readable and compelling, I also thought it was kind of predictable. I don't want to give away too much, but there were some plot twists that seemed cliched to me, like I have read them before. Ellie was also frustrating to the point of irritation at times. I don't have to like all the characters I read about, but if I can't understand why they are acting as they are – if even they don't even seem to understand what they are doing – then I get turned off. There were also some plot points that got short shrift here. They had the potential to make the book more interesting – Lucy's double life, for example – but were left relatively unexplored.

I liked the London setting and Buxbaum's clear, fluid prose. i just wish she had taken some more risks with this book and gone in some directions that didn't feel like well-traveled paths.

I just did a search for other reviews of this book, and am finding that I am in the minority here. Several bloggers whom I respect a great deal – such as Heather from Book Addiction and Swapna of S. Krishna's Books, enjoyed After You a lot and had very positive things to say about it. So you might want to check out their reviews to get a balanced view of this book.

Relax, FTC, I bought this one myself at the Strand.

Treasures from the Strand

I just returned from a very quick trip to NY. The weekend didn't turn out as planned at all – one of my daughters got quite sick while we were there, and we ended up in the hotel room all day yesterday instead of at the Broadway shows we had planned to attend. However, when she finally went to sleep last night, I had an hour-long window to get out of the hotel and go to the Strand before it closed. I halved that hour by taking a cab to the Strand, discovering that I had left my wallet at the hotel, making the cab driver take me back to the hotel to retrieve my wallet, and then returning to the Strand in the same cab. That's how badly I wanted to go.

So I walked in the door of the store around 9:55 PM, and it closed at 10:30. However, while I was there I was able to find half-price hardcover review copies of three books I have had my eye on (and have written about here): Hello Goodbyeby Emily Chenoweth, The GIrls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow, and Sitting Practice by Caroline Adderson. I also picked up a copy of Julie Buxbaum's After You (she's a fellow HLS alum and I have been intrigued by her), and a used copy of Matthew Klam's collection of short stories, Sam the Cat. The latter was an impulse buy from the used fiction section. I rarely read short stories, but these looked good.

Because I really needed five new books to add to the TBR piles.

But it made me so happy to go there and browse and find those books, at the end of a pretty long day, so it was totally worth it. And I was in the checkout line by 10:25. And, I took the subway back.

I love the Strand.