The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Published by Penguin Books on June 24th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Another New York Times bestseller by the author of Me Before You—a spellbinding story of two women united in their fight for what they love most
Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts.
Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.
While browsing my local thrift store, I stumbled upon a copy of The Girl You Left Behind. After hearing such wonderful things about Jojo Moyes’ books, I figured I’d pick it up. While it’s not my usual reading material, I found myself hooked on the story and the characters drew me in from the very first page.
The Girl You Left Behind alternates between 1917 and 2007. Obviously this means that there are two sets of characters. Readers are introduced to the first set in part one, featuring Sophie Lefevre, the subject matter of the painting titled ‘The Girl You Left Behind.’ Sophie’s story is the one that truly fascinated me. She is a French women living in a German occupied town during World War I. She finds herself the subject of unwanted admiration from the Kommandant stationed in her town. When it is revealed to her that her husband has been sent to a work camp, she takes it upon herself to find a way to reunite them, however she can.
Liv Halston takes over the story at part two. ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ is now in her possession, a gift bought by her husband while on their honeymoon. The Lefevre family has recently discovered the existence of the painting and they will do anything in their power to get it back. Liv and the painting become part of a grueling court case where the Lefevre family sets out to prove that the painting was stolen by the Kommandant during World War I and therefore should never have been in Liv’s possession. Had it been a normal case, Liv may have given the painting up but she always felt a connection to Sophie and it was plain to see that the Lefevre family only wanted the painting for it’s monetary value. While I did find Liv to be a bit annoying and rigid at times, I couldn’t help but feel for her and her reasoning for wanting to keep the painting in her possession.
Part One of The Girl You Left Behind was probably the most captivating part of the book while also being the slowest part. While a ton of information was given to the reader in such a small section of the book, it never once felt like the information was just being dumped on the reader. Both Sophie’s and Liv’s voices were distinct and engaging. The two women may have made some very poor decisions but it was impossible not to root for a happy ending for both of them. I felt so invested in their stories that by the end, I had laughed, cried, and smiled so much, right alongside them.
Overall, The Girl You Left Behind is a truly remarkable story. Jojo Moyes is an author who deserves the praise she has been given. I look forward to reading more of her books and now it’s just a matter of deciding which one to start next!