After You, Jojo Moyes

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The Premise

After 6 months of looking after quadriplegic Will Taynor, and falling in love with him, Will committed assisted suicide at Dignitas. Now, estranged from her family because of her complicity in his suicide, Lou is trying to build a life for herself in London, that will bring honour to the legacy that Will left her. But how do you move on from love? And when Will’s past interrupts Lou’s stagnant life, can she move on from his memory, or will she always be trying to please him?

The Verdict

I felt that this novel had more to it than the original. Rather than just relying on the unusual romance between carer and their charge, there were several layers to this book and it addressed more than one serious issue.

It was helpful that aside from one chapter, the narrative was solely from Lou’s point of view which meant that it flowed a lot better. The interspersion could have been done without – the reader could have learned some of the truths about Lily retrospectively as Lou learned them – but it wasn’t as much of an issue was the constant interruptions in the first novel.

Moyes developed the 2D characters of the first novel a little better in this one, especially in the case of Lou’s mother, who makes some progression as a person herself. Her children, and husband, come across as very un-supportive of her developing some feminist attitudes and ways, which is disappointing in a generation where we are more and more encouraging them in ourselves. It added comedy rather than depth to the narrative, undermining the positivity of the presence of some actual character development.

Moyes attempts to address serious issues such as rape, co-erced, drunken teenage sex, grief and depression. It’s a big ask for what I would say is an average author. I felt like the rape and co-erced sexual componant wasn’t given enough seriousness or time. She used it as a way for Lily and Lou to bond, which was fine because victims of similar crimes often do, but it was a story tool and I hate that about it because it undermines the seriousness of those crimes. Lily is offered no counselling and very little support after what happens to her, and with very little build up, she was suddenly being blackmailed and hit on by a 40 year old man (who was trying to bribe her for sex). There was little preparation for the content which I think actually needs a trigger warning. But the worst thing about it is that it is purely a literary tool to move Lily and Lou’s friendship along, without any real consideration for the seriousness of the crime, and no consequence for the perpetrators.

Moyes portrayal of grief is a little more successful – the ‘Moving On’ group seems relevant and thought through, and it was interesting to observe people addressing their different grief. Lou’s attitude towards it wasn’t great, especially how she suddenly became ‘healed’ when the others were still in the early stages of their grief. Perhaps that reflects the short lived nature of hers and Will’s relationship, perhaps it’s a reflection of the passion for life that she and Will shared, but actually it just felt like she moved on and very little consequence, even willing to give up her goodbye speech to Will to his daughter who didn’t know him.

Speaking of Lily, let’s talk about her mother for a moment. Moyes seems to love a flat, 2D, bad guy. Last time it was ‘Running Man’ Patrick, obsessed with exercise and oblivious to everything else. This time it was Lily’s mother, a self centred, uncaring woman, unable to cope with her teenage daughter and willing to palm her off onto any other human who offered. This was an unacceptable portrayal of motherhood, and by referring constantly to her wealth and big house, implied that it was this that was at the cause. Moyes tried to flesh her out by portraying her as a gold digger, but she was an unrealistically negative character and Moyes could have done better.

Overall, though, I did prefer the story to the previous novel. Lily added some more interest in the story, as Will’s daughter, and it was interesting to see Lou try to balance who she is with suddenly becoming responsible for another person. Lou’s relationship with Sam was also a highlight, but again, she falls in love too quickly. The ending was secure, it was good that Lou went off on her adventure and started trying to live again.

I won’t be seeking out Moyes – I get too frustrated at her characterisation of the side characters and her stories are too reliable. But it was a relatively enjoyable read and a very different tone to the original.

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