"Buying heels is an illness. And, it seems, so is spending plastic money."
Why this book?
I came across this book whilst waiting for my supervisor at university to finish a meeting that had run over. It was sat amongst quite a few books by other alumni but this one was the only cover that stood out to me. So I read the blurb and the first twenty pages and loved it! Later on in the same year, I met the wonderful Julia Forster at an event on campus and managed to buy a signed copy from her.
I want to open the review by saying that this book is amazing. Inspired by Julia’s own childhood, What a Way to Go really transports you back to the late ‘80s. Not only is it a coming-of-age novel but it deals with topics like divorce, finances, first loves, and death. The main character, Harper, is instantly lovable and her wittiness adds to the story without taking away from the emotion of the darker moments. Even if you aren’t an ‘80s child (like me) you’ll be able to identify with so many aspects of Harper’s childhood.
By far, my favourite aspect of this novel is Harper and her witty personality. The narrative captures perfectly that mix of wisdom and naivety that only a pre-teen could have. She makes astute observations about things like marrying for convenience and the nation’s over-reliance on credit cards that make you laugh out loud.
I really struggle to find fault with this novel but if I had to choose something it would be the secondary characters. There are a handful of incredibly vibrant, larger-than-life characters in the novel that seem to serve no other purpose. Sure, they pop round sometimes and have conversations with Harper or her mum, but beyond that nothing happens to them. For all that Harper goes through in the novel, none of the others really seem to have a life outside of her immediate surroundings.
"I thought, briefly, that I would never feel as intensely connected to the world, to another human being, as I did at that moment.”
Why this book?
The book caught my eye around the time the film came out and the trailer was everywhere. I waited until I had finished my degree to read it because, as many literature students will tell you, it's hard enough keeping up with your set reading list. I like films of this genre but don’t really read contemporary romance.
It’s difficult to describe exactly how I felt about this book. I suppose underwhelmed is the perfect word; Me Before You is another unfortunate victim of over-hyping. That being said, there were a lot of things I liked about the book – the writing style, the small-town feel, and the fact that the characters are flawed to name a few. The only part of the book I connected with emotionally was Louisa’s reveal of what happened to her in the maze.
I suppose the main reason why I wasn’t blown away by this novel is because it’s no different to your typical love story: they meet, they don't get along, then they fall in love. Many will rush to defend the book by saying that Will being quadriplegic is what sets it apart but most readers with debilitating disabilities would argue that that’s what makes the book offensive.
I’m gonna have to go with the writing on this one. It wasn’t mind-blowing or anything spectacular but it wasn’t over-complicated and Lou’s voice was strong.
I know I’ve already praised this book for having flawed characters but Will’s hypocrisy really angered me. He is constantly putting Louisa down for leading an unambitious life in her hometown (which I did also judge her for) and encourages her to lead a fuller life but is unable to accept that he could also lead a much more active and eventful life. It’s hard to explain how this is possible for a wheelchair-bound character to someone who is able-bodied and/or yet to read this but trust me when I say I’m not the only person to criticise him for it.