Even though I’m not really behind with reviews (which was the purpose of doing mini-reviews in the first place), I decided that I like the format and want to keep it up. As a way to balance out my reading/reviewing, I’ve decided to mostly focus on fiction in mini-reviews and save “real” reviews for nonfiction. Fiction gets covered extensively by other bloggers who write much better than I do, so I feel comfortable leaving the territory to them.
Anyway, for this pair of reviewletts I decided to focus on two recently-released books that made my cry: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
Be Before You by Jojo Moyes
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
I decided to read Me Before You during a mini-readathon I had last weekend because I’d heard from several people that it was a book that made them ugly cry (you know, the red-faced, snot running down your nose, can’t see through the tears cry) and I was in the mood for a good sob. And boy howdy, did this book not disappoint. I fell in love with Lou and felt such strong emotions for her in the book that I cried several times. It was a really, really good read.
But since I can’t say what I want to say much about the crying for fear of spoilers, I decided to hide them with white text. If you don’t mind spoilers, you should be able to highlight and see some final thoughts about why this book made me cry like a baby: I don’t think I cried at this book because of Will making the decision to end his life. It’s wasn’t that surprising to me that he did and that Lou’s love wasn’t enough to help him forget the life he wants to have. I cried because this experience changed Lou so much. There’s a moment at the end where she’s standing on the beach and actually sees a world with possibility for herself. I felt so grateful that she had found this and so happy for her (and sad for her, having a feeling about what the next crushing moment would be) that I just started bawling. And then didn’t stop. It was a complicated mix of emotions, but the best kind you can get from a book.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
I picked up The Song of Achilles as part of Book Riot’s tag-team effort to read all of the books in the 2013 Tournament of Books (you can read my discussion with Amanda of Dead White Guys here). Amanda also wrote a review of this book on her blog that says basically all of the things I think, so I’ll try to be brief here without plagiarizing all her smart ideas.
Basically, there is a ton to love about this book. It takes the story of Achilles (made famous in Homer’s The Illiad) and makes it more gentle, more personable, more warm. Miller writes both Patroclus and Achilles in such a way that by the end of the book I deeply cared for them, enough that I may have even been ok with Miller messing with the inevitable, tragic ending if it meant happiness for them (she doesn’t, but still). And Miller balances out all of the romance with just enough war and one-liners from Odysseus (who I really liked in this story) to keep the book humming along. The Song of Achilles is a moving, smart, interesting adaptation of a classic that I’m glad to have read.
Disclosure: I borrowed Me Before You from my wonderful local library and purchased a copy of The Song of Achilles.