Book Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

“Far easier for you to just stick with that depressing little job and complain about it. Far easier for you to sit tight and not take a risk and make out that everything that happens to you is something you could not help.”

How do you move on after losing your loved one? How one builds a life worth living when a person you loved truly leaves you in the midst?

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Photo Collage: After You

Losing someone you love is very painful and grief is a natural response to loss. On top of grief and pain, you are forced to make changes that you are not prepared to make. It becomes hard to keep your life in line. You are supposed to look forward and let go of the past. You have to move on without feeling like you are betraying the one you have lost.

I was very anxious to read the sequel after reading the first novel ‘Me Before You’. In the first book, the quadriplegic Will wish to end his own life. Louisa Clark worked as caretaker of Will. Both fell in love for each other but probably not hard enough to change his mind.

In the second novel ‘After You’; Will’s death devastated Lou and she had no idea what to do

with her life.  Lou tried to cope with her loss and how grief had consumed her? How did she tackle Will’s death?

All these questions were brewing in my mind. ‘After You’ is an answer to all my answers about Lou’s life. It’s true that we cannot forget our love but once a person dies we cannot die with that person. We have to move on for our sanity. We need to take chances because we are still alive and life is short so to speak.

The novel is all about Lou’s journey, a bumpy process of accommodation to loss and the fear of starting over. She is stuck in a bartender job which she abhors; she wallows in her apartment in London until an accident forces her to be around her family and to try to move on.

There are two new characters that change her life. Sam who works as a paramedic who disentangles her from downstairs neighbor’s canopy and Lily, the teenager who barges in her home and in her life unexpectedly, claiming to be a daughter of Will. These two characters help her emerge from the dark place she is in.

‘After You’ has taken me on yet another roller coaster ride of emotions. I don’t know how the author does it, tackling death and the void it can leave us but Moyes has created absolute gems; she has a knack for breaking your heart before restoring your faith in love. Her innate ability to describe damaged people with complex lives is just brilliant. One would fall in love with weepy bits and witty bits.

The first series is a tear-jerker where the love evokes a  sense of desolation whereas the second one helps in making peace with the past and moving on and in doing so, it reminds us that ‘Life goes on!’

As per Moyes in her own words: “That’s life. We don’t know what will happen. Which is why we have to take our chances while we can.”

Book: After You

By Jojo Moyes

ISBN 978-1-405-90907-5

Pp 406

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The Book Thief: Yet Profound Love for Books

There are two types of fiction, one where you read through the pages and

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Online Picture

you are lost in a story and it keeps you hooked until you don’t reach the last page of the novel, and then there is second kind of fiction which keeps you haunted even after finishing the book.  I believe that a book gives you a feel of fresh breeze in a suffocated environment! A person devoid of words will live in repression but a literate person will transcend against the injustice and cruelty.  Books are a source of happiness in a depressing world and it encourages you to think beyond the existing world.  ‘The Book Thief’ falls in the latter category.

Published in 2005, the story showcases the events of World War II which is also the backdrop of the novel. Liesel Meminger a prime protagonist of this story arrived at the distraught state to the foster family who reside in Himmel Street. During her stay, she tries to live a normal life despite the horror of Nazis. In the meantime, Liesel developed a strong connection with her foster father Hans Hubermann who introduced the world of books to her. Apparently the first book which she learnt to read was stolen at her brother’s funeral.  She did not know how to read or write but Hans taught her to read.  Liesel also made a friend Rudy who used to like her. Then there was a fist-fighter, Max, who was kept hidden in the basement of her home by her foster parents only because he was a Jewish and Nazis loathed Jews.

Liesel had a profound love for books; her love is illustrated so beautifully in the following lines when she encountered horde of books at a mayor’s library for the first time:

She ran the back of her hand across the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her finger nails, gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like instruments or notes of running feet.”

As a reader, I can relate to Liesel’s emotion because I also feel same when I am around books. The ecstatic feeling I have while holding a book is immeasurable.  A person having so much love for books that even the mention of it brings a smile on her face so why Liesel chose to be a book thief? In my opinion the title ‘Book thief’ is not used in negative connotation, in fact it’s a symbolism of freedom against the clench of Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. During second world war, Nazis attacked the art and literature by burning tens of thousands of books. Hence Liesel’s book stealing acts as symbol of freedom and expression against the atrocities of those times.

The peculiarity  of this book is that death is the narrator.  Usually we consider death as callous but here in this story; death is less-threatening. Regardless of its ubiquity in the times of horrific war, the last sentence of death in the novel; “I am haunted by humans” is a true embodiment of compassion.

I want to give entire credit to the author, Markus Zusak who has written an inventive and interesting read. There is no single moment when you feel like bore or lose interest while reading.  Words are significant component of any write-up, and story is the heartbeat of a good novel.  Markus knows how to touch the chords of his readers’ heart. His story has a poignant feel and each word holds an immense profundity. It’s elegant, philosophical and moving. This is one book which you need to read slowly and savor each moment during reading.

I choose to end my review with the last lines of the Liesel (read: the book thief) in the novel:

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope that I have made them right.”