Culture Street

Louisa Clark works in The Buttered Bun tea shop, a job she loves. When she suddenly loses her job her comfortable life is thrown into chaos. Her parents rely on the assistance her salary provides to care for her granddad, her sister and her sister’s son, Thomas, all of whom live under the one roof.

Desperate to find a job and under pressure from the job centre to take anything that comes along, Louisa agrees to care for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic. She has never been a care worker before, has had no previous training and has little idea of what is required of her.

Louisa is hired by Will’s mother, on a six-month contract, before she has even met Will. Mrs Traynor insists that Louisa must not leave Will alone under any circumstances.

Will Traynor, a former city worker and thrill seeker was left a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident two years ago. After the accident he moved from his London bachelor pad back to the country to live with his increasingly unhappy parents.

Will turns out to be a surly young man with a bitter chip on his shoulder. From the outset he makes it clear he does not want anyone to look after him. Louisa does what she has to, she feeds Will, cleans his room and does his washing, but is often left to sit in the kitchen with a magazine as Will listens to the radio or watches a film alone.

As Louisa gets to know Will their relationship unfolds. Louisa, a bright, outspoken, effervescent young woman adds a spark to Will’s day. She begins to encourage him to get out of the house and Will in turn, frustrated with Louisa’s low self esteem and lack of ambition, encourages her to broaden her horizons.

Moyes describes the life of someone bound to a wheelchair with great insight. The descriptions of the many difficulties that arise once Will begins going out will resonate with anyone who has been in a wheelchair or been a carer. The planning involved in order to investigate access to venues before booking an event is poignantly described as are the dilemmas faced when things go wrong and help is needed.

The beauty of this book is the humour. The scene at the races, which I am not going to give away, is so aptly told – the judgment of the middle class patrons and the assistance given by the working class shows such insight into the way communities differ in their behaviour towards those with disabilities. One minute the reader is furious, then crying, then laughing out loud.

As the relationship between Will and Louisa deepens, Moyes begins to describe, in scary details, Will’s fluctuating medical condition. The sudden onset of his ailments terrifies Louisa, his temperature variations and bouts of pneumonia fill her with fear and act as a constant reminder of the severity and limitations of his condition.

Despite the serious undertones in this book, Moyes always finds humour to punctuate some of the darkest moments. Black humour perpetuates the quadriplegic chat rooms Louisa frequents in order to gain further knowledge to assist Will.

Moyes has chosen a dark subject with a hot topic as the book’s central theme. Is life worth living when it is so limited? Instead of the heavy handed book this could have been Moyes has used her expertise to create a compelling love story between two people who under normal circumstances would not have given each other a second glance.

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