I have avoided romantic books for more than two years now, but inevitably, they make their way into my reading list. I did not know anything about this book, until I saw the movie trailer, and I can admit that’s what got me intrigued.
I appreciate movies that send the warm homey vibe, without being too suffocatingly cute and cliché. Plus, it has Sam Claflin in it, and it’s…Sam Claflin, you know. He already melted my heart in Love, Rosie, I knew I was in for a treat. He’s such a great actor. Plus, if you give me a romantic comedy that is gonna make me miss my long-distance boyfriend, you might as well give me eye candy. When I saw the second trailer, which came out not so long ago, I was already hyperventilating. I needed to occupy my mind with something until the movie would come out.
I can already grant the producers of the movie this: they preserved the homey feeling of the book, which is no small feat. As the author of the book said, we deal with a love story (between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor). The thing that separates this from any other cliché love story is the fact that he is quadraplegic, that is, stuck in a wheelchair with no hope of recovering his mobility. Had I been recommended this book without being shown the visuals, I would have thought it is a sad love story, but it is much more. It is a story about the humanity in every love story. It doesn’t mean that if you’re stuck in a wheelchair, if you are young, old, walking, happy, unhappy, love cannot strike at the most surprising of times. If you have the same doubts about this book as I had, I can tell you that most of the time I did not see Will as a poor handicapped man in need of compassion, but as a young man who lost his chance to live his life as a handsome career man. As for Louisa, I cannot say I related to her life, but I can definitely say I related to her feelings, to her doubts, to her constantly giving up, thinking she is not pretty enough, bright enough, with her setting small goals and not daring to dream big, for fear she might disappoint all those people that already tagged her a certain “unflattering” way.
This book has three major themes, I think: the love story, family and the issue of what you could do when you’re living without actually living and what is morally acceptable about it.
The love story between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor, is born from playing cats and dogs and constant teasing. It comes through growth, attachment and not so much through sexual attraction. I love that kind of love story: a simple, laid out version is always boring. The more difficult to reach fulfillment, the better, in my books. This love story shows that love can take you out of your comfort and change your life, if you only let it. Louisa is the girl-next-door-stuck-in-a-small-town type. She lives together with her family and much smarter sister in a house that is too small to accommodate everybody equally. She has a boyfriend with whom she grows out of love, when she realizes he’s just one of those things she settled in. She is happy down to one thing that doesn’t seem to fit into her picture perfect life. Or so she sees it. Will Traynor settles into other things. Seeing his whole life ruined in just a second, he settles into being a human vegetable, thinking there’s nothing left in store for him. He pushes everyone away and makes home with feelings of uselessness and despair. In my view, the budding friendship between them ultimately created something in which both could settle, perhaps even find some resolution. How they come to fit into that something leads to something almost luminous in its sensibilities, thus it is not impossible, as a reader, to think this could only end in love.
As far as family goes, this book deals with two types of families who face the same challenges differently and make mistakes along the way. Will’s family is upper class, they live at economic ease, but nothing can prevent them from the tragedy that hits them with the accident of their son. It shows that even a picture perfect family has its imperfections, which will lead later on to its rupture. Louisa’s family is more pragmatic. They know the value of work and also that of education, but they make the mistake of not pushing their youngest to do more with her life. Thus, she always lives in the shadow of her much brighter sister, settling into never being “enough”. They live on the side of the castle where dreaming is a rich man’s privileg, butt least, they keep their family together in spite of some differences left unspoken. On the Traynors’ side of the castle, the family’s unity is frail and on the verge of disintegrating. They pick sides around Will and his decisions, and base everything on his condition.
This book also discusses the once hot topic of assisted suicide, which makes the right to live or die to a matter of choice, a morally unacceptable concept for most people. But what do you do, really, if you’re the constant victim of suffering, waiting for the next medical breakthrough that just won’t come fast enough?
As I said in my goodreads review, I actually knew how this book was going to end by 80%. I read it on kindle. This book is not an entirely romantic book, because it shows the very humane aspect of love not always being the superhero that saves the day. For some, it can bring redemption, which is sometimes exactly what a person might need. For others, love opens one’s mind to the endless world of possibility, that are not related to soulmates. Sometimes you can be your own soulmate for a while and that’s OK too.
I give it 4 out of 5. It was an easy read, that took two afternoons. I can’t wait for the movie!