January 23, 2014

Latest Read: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Here are the basics ...
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Publication date: Aug. 1, 2013
Publisher: Viking Adult
Category: Adult Fiction - Historical/Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Summary: 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. (Adapted goodreads.com
My thoughts…
Right after finishing The Girl You Left Behind, I immediately went on Twitter and said: "Every time I'm in a book rut, I should read a Jojo Moyes book." Don't get me wrong, I've liked a bunch of the books I've read lately. But I haven't had that "I'm not moving from this couch until I finish because I am in love with this book" feeling in weeks. Until now.

The Girl You Left Behind tells the story of two women from completely different time periods. There's Sophie Lefevre in 1916, living with her siblings in a small French village named St. PĂ©ronne during World War I while her husband Edouard goes to fight at the Front. Edouard is an artist and the portrait he painted of Sophie is one of the few things that continue to give her hope. Everything about Sophie, her family, her town and what they were all going through was so vivid. Sophie was this smart, tenacious but scared woman who stood up to the Germans even as they made harsh demands on her town. It's those qualities, and her portrait in their family-owned bar and hotel, that catches the eye of the Kommandant. He and his men start going there and orders Sophie and her sister to cook dinner for them night after night. Sophie begins to form a complicated truce of sorts with the Kommandant which begs the question - are there lines she's willing to cross to protect the people she loves most? Her husband, her family. The weight of what she endures broke my heart and really made me think about what that time was like and just human nature in general.

Then in the present, Liv Halston is a young widow trying to get over the death of her husband four years ago. Sophie's portrait was given to her as a gift from her late husband and like Sophie, she finds comfort in its beauty but she's completely unaware of its history and value. Liv was a powerful protagonist in her own right too. The author is very candid about Liv's grief - how much she misses her husband, her pain and how cheated she feels when she sees other people's happiness. It's an honest, real reaction. But I wanted her to find happiness again. It's not an easy journey for her and she's constantly at war with herself. Those feelings are then heightened when a family claims Sophie's portrait was stolen a century earlier and they want it back. Of course, the company helping them with their case is led by the same man Liv is finally opening up to. She's floored by all this but ultimately fights back, even when everyone tells her not to. She begins to research her case and as she puts together the details of Sophie's life, suddenly the painting isn't just a painting anymore.

It's been a while since I've read (and enjoyed) any historical fiction and if I'm honest, that's the reason why it's taken me so long to read this. But everything about this book - past and present - was so compelling. The way the author alternates between their lives and then eventually connects them was seamless. I felt equally invested in both stories and both women. Then their lives begin to parallel in a way which cleverly tied the stories together and also allowed us the reader to find out what truly happened to Sophie and her painting.

Do I recommend?: Yes, yes and yes! I had to do some major editing when I wrote this review because I just had so much to say! I really loved this book and I am already trying to pick out my next Jojo Moyes book to read.

Happy reading!

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review! I recently bought a ecopy of this and will be moving it up on my TBR list! ;)

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  2. Jojo is now on my Auto Buy list. This was my first of hers, but the moment I finished I tracked down everything else I could.

    This book is my #1 go-to recommendation for customers and I've forced it on a scary number of family and friends haha! :) They've all loved it.

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  3. You seriously make a GREAT case for me to read this book! I loved Me Before You a whole lot when I read it, and I think I'm TOTALLY ready to indulge in another great book from Jojo Moyes.

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  4. Oh yayyyy! I really loved this one, too! Moyes has a huge backlist - I get excited every time I think about how many of her books are out there still to be read!

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