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This is the story of two very different men who went to the same prestigious school, but years later neither of their lives have turned out the way they were expected.

Since the incident that caused James DeWitt to suffer a severe brain injury, robbing him of his job, his friends and his girlfriend, James lives back at home with his parents and spends his days watching DVDs.

Meanwhile, Danny Allen, former scholarship pupil at the school and destined to have a successful and industrious career, has more or less given up on life. He is a recovering alcoholic, with a failing relationship and no job. It is only when he is told that he needs to find employment or lose his benefits that he ends up working in a care home, where he encounters James and they strike up a friendship.

I’ll leave the description at that, as I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The story is narrated by James and Danny, with each taking alternate chapters. I really liked the book and found it to be an undemanding read, despite the subject matter. Mike Gayle has always written enjoyable novels, but usually on a much lighter note. Here he delves into more serious issues, such as learning to live with a brain injury which meant that James had lost his independence, and Danny struggling as he blamed himself for a tragic event in his past. I think I could see where the book was going and the ending was no real surprise; however, it is not a thriller or a whodunnit and every ending doesn’t need to have a twist.

If you are a fan of Mike Gayle or authors such as Nick Hornby, I would certainly recommend this book.

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Louisa Clark is 26 years old, in a vaguely unsatisfying relationship with fitness fanatic Patrick, lives with her parents, sister, nephew and Grandad in a house that really isn’t big enough for them all, and works in a cafe, doing a job she likes but which has no prospects.  Her world could not be more different than that of Will Traynor, who is handsome, intelligent, rich, funny, adventurous and well-travelled.  But Will’s life has changed unimaginably since he was in a road accident that left him quadraplegic, and Lou’s life changes when she loses her job at the cafe, and becomes a carer for Will.  Initially antagonistic towards each other, the two end up becoming good friends – and each becomes something of a lifeline to the other.  Louisa desperately wants to help Will cope with his disability, but Will already has his own plans for the rest of his life.

I had heard many many good things about this book – SO many in fact, that I felt certain I was going to be let down when I actually read it.  However, I was not let down; in fact I found that this novel was one of those rare books that I genuinely did not want to put down.  I lost myself in it for hours at a time, and found that I was totally engaged with these two characters.  I really don’t want to give too much away about what happens, so I have limited my description of the story to more or less what is on the back cover of the book.  I must say though, that this story had me crying on several occasions, and laughing on other – yes, even when discussing such an emotionally charged subject, Jojo Moyes still managed to convey the hilarity of some situations.

The book is mainly told from Lou’s point of view, and I grew to really like her; like Will, I felt frustrated at her inability to see her own potential, and her apparent willingness to settle for less than she deserved.  As for Will – I really don’t believe I can even begin to imagine how it must be to live his life – but this book did make me think about how it must be for a young man in his prime to lose practically all of his physical capabilities. 

If I had just one criticism, it would be that I thought the upper classes were portrayed almost as caricatures – rich women are apparently all stunning beautiful but selfish, and the men are all boorish and brash.  This really is just a tiny niggle though, and certainly would not stop me recommending this book to everybody. 

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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