From the BLURB:
Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she's going to keep it, she has to invite them in...
‘After You’ was the 2015 sequel to Jojo Moyes’s 2012 bestselling book, ‘Me Before You’.
It’s some 18 months since Will Traynor committed assisted suicide, ending his life that saw him as a successful business and sportsman, but that took a drastic turn after an accident left him a quadriplegic. Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark was his companion and care-giver for six short months; six months in which she fell in love with Will, struggled with his decision to end his life and was inspired to expand her own small world because of the fire he lit in her.
But it’s hard to live life to the fullest when you’re still grieving – and somewhat angry at the person whose life changed yours, but still decided to end his own. Lou, we discover, did as Will instructed and lived for herself … for a little while, at least. But she grew exhausted and lonely, and the further she got away from memories of Will, the more she finds herself doubting everything they had and she’s become.
I went straight to Paris and simply didn’t go home, giddy with the freedom, with the appetites that Will had stirred in me. I got a job at a bar favoured by expats where they didn’t mind my terrible French, and I grew better at it. I rented a tiny attic room in the 16th, above a Middle Eastern restaurant, and I would lie awake at night and listen to the sound of the late drinkers and the early morning deliveries and every day I felt like I was living someone else’s life.
When we catch up with Lou again, she’s living an uneventful half-life in the London apartment she bought with money Will left her. She’s working a dead-end waitressing job at the airport, and her family are worried for all the ways she’s letting life slip through her fingers again … but then a terrible accident, and an unexpected visitor conspire to turn Lou’s life around again.
So, I was really reluctant to read this book. Hence, why I didn’t pounce on it when it was released last year. ‘Me Before You’ was my first Moyes book, and I loved it. I was obsessed with it, and couldn’t stop thinking of Lou and Will for days after that book wrecked me … and when I heard Moyes was writing a sequel (not just a novella catch-up shortish story, but a proper 416-page book!) I didn’t want to read it. I thought ‘Me Before You’ was perfect as-was, and I hesitated to read Moyes revisiting this story – I was worried that it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good, or I’d find no point in revisiting. Thankfully though, I had no reason to worry. Moyes has as many important themes and bruises to discuss and poke at, and Lou is in a riper place than ever for a reflection story/journey.
I love the fact that this is Moyes looking at grief, and the fact that there’s no guidebook or expiry-date on missing someone. This is something Lou struggles with – both for how short a time she knew Will, she wonders if she’s ‘allowed’ to have this depth of feeling and missing for him;
“Did I imagine it all, Nathan? Sometimes I think I’ve made what happened between Will and me so much bigger in my head. Like how can I have loved someone that much in such a short time? And all these things I think about the two of us – did we actually feel what I remember? The further we get from it, the more that six months just seems like this weird … dream.”
There was a tiny pause before Nathan responded. “You didn’t imagine it, mate.”
But it’s also Lou struggling to ‘live life to the fullest’ like she learnt to do with Will – but that becomes hard to do with the drudgery of life and needing to support yourself, and when just living day-to-day while grieving is a task in itself. Suddenly all those wisdoms Will imparted seem impossible to fulfil.
There is a little romance for Lou in this book, which is something else she has to tackle through the lens of grief and guilt. But there’s a bigger story in here too, about another unexpected way the memory of Will ‘intrudes’ on Lou trying to live her life and move on … when this arc revealed itself I did a little internal eye-roll at the cliché of it, but Moyes pulls it off with aplomb by infusing a grittiness to the questions this character and story throws up. I also appreciated that there was an aspect to it that connected to what happened to Lou as a young woman, when she was raped while out partying one night. All of this really grounded the story, and bought new dimensions to Lou’s new life and growth for me.
I also loved that Lou’s family have their own dramas playing out – her mother has taken a feminist school course, and her father is feeling threatened by the woman his wife is suddenly becoming after decades of steady marriage.
I shouldn’t have held out so long to read this sequel. I’m glad that watching the trailer for the movie adaptation of ‘Me Before You’ prompted me to revisit Lou’s world, because ‘After You’ was absolutely fulfilling and a phenomenal read. I did love that Lou got another little romance here, but there’s bigger things happening in her life that made me even think I’d like to revisit her for a third time round …