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Still Me

Review

Still Me

Louisa Clark is back --- and she’s gone to New York City.

Like King Kong, she conquers it. There is actually a climactic scene on a tall building in this book, à la An Affair to Remember, though it’s the top of Rockefeller Center, not the Empire State. But before that happens, Louisa is at various times exhilarated, exhausted, bored, bedizened, bullied, heartbroken, unemployed and homeless.

Readers of the mega-bestsellers ME BEFORE YOU and AFTER YOU will be aware that STILL ME is the third in an ongoing saga of love, loss and self-discovery, told in Louisa’s distinctively cheeky voice. For those who haven’t yet met Jojo Moyes’ madcap English heroine, I refer you to the first book, wherein a self-inflicted death leaves her both distraught and ripe for possibility (it’s not a downer, I promise you); and the second, in which she recovers with the help of her eccentric family and a hunky paramedic named Sam.

Now, leaving Sam behind in London, Louisa takes a job with the Gopniks, an ultra-rich family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and her Brit’s-eye view of the Big Apple is absolutely fabulous. Wearing a vintage turquoise blouse with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, she checks all the tourist boxes: humming “Let the River Run” from Working Girl, eating (“from a plate the size of a car tire”) at coffee shops and diners, sneering at America’s newbie historical status (told smugly that a building dates from 1937, Lou thinks her mum might have “a pair of tights older than that”), and discovering that Manhattan is not all fancy apartments and glossy shops when she heads north to Washington Heights.

"The heart of the book, without doubt, is Louisa’s friendship with Margot DeWitt. I loved every sweet-and-sour minute of it... It made me cry --- and lust after the clothes in a big way."

Louisa is not a tourist, though. She’s more like an indentured servant to Agnes, Mr. G.’s second wife, a gorgeous Polish-born masseuse/pianist who speaks four languages (I know…). Agnes suffers through their ritzy social commitments --- Mr. G.’s first wife is alive and well and stirring up gossip --- and Louisa is supposed to keep her undepressed and functional. Agnes is always telling Louisa that she is not staff but a friend, and at first she believes it, protesting when the housekeeper, Ilaria (a flinty character with a heart of mush), tells her that Agnes “would sell you down the river if it meant she saved herself.” Ilaria, unfortunately, is right; she and Louisa are essentially invisible, and expendable.

In the romance department, things are equally complicated. A couple of semi-disastrous visits from Sam (think food poisoning and suspicious minds) don’t help their long-distance relationship to thrive, nor does Katie, his pretty new work partner back in London. Louisa becomes amusingly jealous (“Nothing says stalky, insecure girlfriend like someone who calls at four a.m.”); alas, her fears are borne out when she catches him and Katie in a compromising position on a visit to England for Christmas. She feels rootless, desolate: “I had thought I might feel comforted at being home. Instead I felt untethered, as if…I belonged in neither place.”

Back in New York, Louisa finds apparent compensation in Josh, an attractive, ambitious guy who reminds her physically of Will Traynor (her great love from ME BEFORE YOU). Convenient, eh? Maybe a bit too convenient. The rom-com predictability of Louisa’s love life is the weakest part of STILL ME, in my opinion, and her passion for offbeat fashion combos is the strongest.

On a hunt for interesting textiles during a free weekend, Louisa visits the Vintage Clothes Emporium downtown, run by two sisters, and impresses them with her military coat, red beanie, tweed shorts and turquoise Doc Martens (I know!). At the same time, she bonds with a neighbor of the Gopniks: Margot DeWitt, a chic, irritable old lady with a snappy dog by the name of Dean Martin. A former fashion magazine editor, Margot turns out to have an apartment stuffed with vintage treasures, and a friendship is born --- which becomes deeper when Louisa is fired (unfairly) by the Gopniks and Margot’s health takes a nosedive. The two women rescue one another.

Margot becomes Louisa’s rather acerbic cheerleader. For example, to go to dinner with Josh’s boss, Louisa puts on her trademark bumblebee tights (yellow and black stripes) in combination with a vintage Chanel dress. He nixes the outfit as unsuitable: “Why aren’t you allowed to be yourself?” Margot demands, outraged. “Any man lucky enough to be your date shouldn’t give a fig if you come out in a trash bag and galoshes.” Whereupon, Josh is history. And Sam? That would be telling. Ultimately, though, Louisa finds her romantic bliss as well as her true métier.

STILL ME struck me as a little unbalanced. It’s a fun read, but for this anglophile there is too little of Louisa’s screwball family (sister Treena has a surprising new beau; Granddad dies, leaving Lou’s mum distraught) and way too much of the entitled, uninteresting Gopniks. The series of romantic contretemps with Sam and Josh seem contrived --- plot-driven rather than deeply felt. The heart of the book, without doubt, is Louisa’s friendship with Margot DeWitt. I loved every sweet-and-sour minute of it (yes, I did once work for a fashion magazine). It made me cry --- and lust after the clothes in a big way.

Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman on February 2, 2018

Still Me
by Jojo Moyes

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
  • ISBN-10: 0399562451
  • ISBN-13: 9780399562457