My God EVERYONE should read this book. Probably more than once.
The blurb for this book is so vague, you don’t really know if there’s a HEA or not, you don’t know if the characters spanning 100 years are related, you don’t really know much. Except that the story is about a painting.
What happened to the girl you left behind?
In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.
Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…
In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.
Oh my, I have so many. But mostly feelings. There’s such a vast range of feelings associated with this story.
Fear and longing: Wartime is never easy, especially for the people in the warring countries. So in World War I with regards to this story, the countries involved are Germany and France. The Germans occupy parts of France and one family, Sophie Lefevre’s, lives in a village where they are directly under German control. They’re give rations (decreasing daily) and they live in constant fear. Sophie’s husband, a painter by the name of Edouard Lefevre, and her sister’s husband are both fighting the Germans and the women are left to deal with the consequences of surviving the war.
Lust and admiration, tension, more fear (and maybe, just MAYBE some swoons): The village Kommandant takes a shine to Sophie and decides that his men will dine daily in her hotel’s restaurant. A hotel that has long lost its luxurious amenities, facade and most of its clients. The Kommandant also takes a big shine to a painting of Sophie hanging in the restaurant, and is basically using the painting to get close to Sophie. Part of his hidden campaign is a few liberties for Sophie and her family, leeway with rations and protection. The culmination of this relationship is an act from which Sophie cannot go back, all to see her beloved husband once more.
And that’s all in 1916. Because at some point in the story, we quantum leap to London of 2006, where we meet Liv Halston.
Heartache: Liv is the current owner of The Girl You Left Behind, Sophie’s portrait. Liv is a still grieving widow having lost her husband unexpectedly 4 years before. She is struggling financially to keep her husband’s dream home, an architectural innovation, and all around is refusing to let go. The portrait was given to her by her husband on their honeymoon.
Swoons: Liv happens to meet Paul and he immediately rushes to her rescue. He courts Liv – let’s just say, I wish every woman on earth get to be courted like that. So real and passionate. An American ex-cop he’s protective, honorable, sweet, considerate and all around pretty much perfect for Liv.
And then a claim to The Girl You Left Behind as a stolen art piece surfaces. And her whole world, that seems to be getting back on track in a way, shifts off its axis.
I was sucked in right from the start, but around where the story moves to modern day time, it takes off like a rocket. Ms. Moyes weaves an almost enchanting story where two very different times, history and present, are connected by an art piece. The portrait The Girl You Left Behind, ties several stories together, stories that span two world wars, three love stories and compelling characters. Sophie’s story touched my heart so much, I felt heartbroken for her circumstances. And then for her portrait to play such an important part in Liv’s healing, future and blooming love *takes a deep breath* my heart was bursting with tenderness, heartache and thrill all mixed together, I had to finish the book in one reading, just to be able to sleep soundly. However few hours were left that night after I was done.
I want to shout at everyone to just buy this amazing book and enjoy this beautiful, thrillingly heartfelt story.
Yes, there are many sad and heartbreaking moments in this story, but there are also many many beautiful, tender moments. Rays of sunshine if you will, in a devastating tale. And most importantly (to some, anyway) – this is not like Me Before You. I’ve had a few people ask me that, afraid to pick up TGYLB.
So go, buy it, read it, love it, swoon, shed a tear or two, and tell everyone you know.
Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming a must read author for me. Probably already has. I’ll slowly weave my way through her works, positive I’ll love each and every story.
About Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30 she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992 She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.
She has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.