Written By: Jojo Moyes
Published By: Pamela Dorman Books an imprint of Viking Books August 2013
Length: 384 pages
Jojo Moyes’s bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has struck a chord with readers everywhere. “Hopelessly and hopefully romantic” (Chicago Tribune), Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker that asks, “Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?”
France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.
Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.
The Girl You Left Behind was not the book I expected when I began reading. I purposely hadn’t read much about the book, I had loved ME BEFORE YOU which I read in December 2012. I hadn’t expected the first third to be historical fiction but Jojo Moyes wrote of Sophie and her love of Edouard with the realistic setting of 1916 France. This part of the story was brutal and stark, the Germans cruelty and the virtual starvation of the people in the village. Sophie recalls how she and Edouard met in Paris and he began to paint the haunting portrait of her that is named, The Girl You left behind. I thought Sophie was generous and loving to her family, she took risks and it allowed them to have a bit more food as they were serving the Germans that they detested.
Just when there is great turmoil with Sophie’s life, the book takes us to nearly present day London. Liv Halston is barely functioning. Her husband passed away four years ago, and she lives almost completely in the glass house he built for them. As an architect he was just coming into his own when he died. Liv loves her home, and a beloved painting her husband gave her. Liv doesn’t date, and rarely goes out. I found it completely believable that she would be hesitant and yet almost eager to start something romantic or sexual when she meets Paul. Liv is torn in her feelings. At the same time Liv runs into an old classmate and Mo actually moves in to her guest room. Liv is opening up to all kids of new relationships.
Essentially The Girl You Left Behind is a love story, or several love stories. Love seems to override the desperation of war for Sophie, and love keeps Liv going when she loses David, and the opportunity to love again pushes Liv to take a chance when she meets Paul. When she fears she may be losing the portrait she has come to symbolize the love she once had she is fierce in her actions to hold onto it. While others around her warn she is risking way too much for a piece of art, Liv feels she must keep it, for David, for herself.
I loved this book, Jojo Moyes does not disappoint in giving us yet another story that brought tears to my eyes and in the end a satisfying read. I’ve given this book 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and contemporary literature. I venture to say romance lovers would enjoy this one too. Since reading her previous book I’ve been following Jojo on twitter and facebook, and she is so very gracious and fun!