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A Plucky English Heroine Amid New York's Super-Rich In 'Still Me'

In the 2012 best-selling novel Me Before You, an idealistic young Englishwoman named Louisa Clark becomes the caretaker of a wealthy businessman left paralyzed from a motorcycle accident. They fall in love. Then tragedy strikes, and Louisa is left to pick up the pieces.

The story was a breakout hit for journalist and author Jojo Moyes. She wrote a screenplay for a 2016 film adaptation of Me Before You, which starred Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, and a sequel called After You, where Louisa finds love after loss. Now, her protagonist's story continues in the upcoming novel Still Me.

The new book is set in New York City, where Louisa goes to work for a very wealthy man and his much younger second wife, all the while trying to maintain her long-distance relationship with Ambulance Sam and dealing with a new suitor — one who resembles the first great love of her life.

Interview Highlights

On how women struggle in an upper-class environment

My husband is always amazed by the subtlety of the ways that women can put each other down. It's like a language — it's like a dog whistle. You know, only dogs can hear it — well, only women can hear these subtle put-downs. ... He says, "Well, she was just being helpful." And I go, "Yeah ..."

In general, the book is about women actually supporting each other, but I do think in those very rarefied strata, there is a kind of inherent competitiveness and suspicion of newcomers. And that's what Agnes finds — that although she adores this new husband of hers, and from the outside, her life looks like a fairy tale, from the inside, it's a very different story. She's not accepted by rest of the family, she's not accepted by the new social circle that she finds herself in, and she's also alienated from her old social circle because her problems are all luxury problems, as far as they can see.

On researching the world of the super-wealthy

I like, as an ex-journalist, to try, as far as possible, to actually step into the shoes of the kind of people that I write about. It's really about the blood flow around those [Manhattan apartment] buildings as well ... and that's what really fascinated me — I wanted the building to be as much of a character as the people themselves.

The really fundamental difference is this thing of living life under observation. Your home might be a home, but it's also a workplace for many people around you. And there's a sort of cognitive dissonance involved when you have to pretend that the people working for you are not observing your own life, you know? They're all going to have opinions about how you live it, and they're all going to talk to each other. But the super-rich, the really wealthy, just kind of have to live lives that pretend that that's not happening, and there's an inherent tension in that that I find really interesting as a writer.

On writing about romance between people in different social class situations

I think to write interestingly about love and romance, you need tension running through a story. And for me, the really interesting tension in modern life is about the haves and the have-nots. You know, we live in an increasingly polarized society, and when you're in somewhere like on Fifth Avenue, it becomes really, really blatant. From the doorman that you pass on the street to the people getting into the limos outside, it's almost its most naked form. And that I find fascinating.

On the future of the Louisa Clark series of books

You know, I think this is it. I'm really sad to say that because I love writing her, and she's a very easy character for me to write, because I feel like I inhabit her very — very easily. But I don't want people to get bored of her. So the only way I might revisit her – or to sort of stop myself getting sad about it – is maybe to do a short story sometime in the future. But I think as far as long-form goes, this might be the end.

Denise Guerra and Martha Ann Overland produced and edited this story for broadcast, and Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.