Review originally on I Heart.. Chick Lit.
What happened to the girl you left behind?
France, 1916. Sophie Lefevre must keep her family safe whilst her adored husband Edouard fights at the front. When she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes riven by fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait - painted by Edouard - a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision.
Almost a century later, and Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv's life upside down all over again . . .
In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for what they love most - whatever the cost.
The only book I've read by Jojo Moyes was The Last Letter From Your Lover last year which I thought was really captivating, very Mad Men. So when I received The Girl You Left Behind from Penguin one day, I was shocked and surprised, in a good way. Inside the parcel, was the book and a note from the ever lovely Joe, thinking I'd like to read Jojo's new one and he couldn't be any more correct.
Okay, I admit: I don't really like historical fiction and stories related to war because I find them really dreary and depressing. That was my initial thought of The Girl You Left Behind, as the first 100 pages or so are set in St. Peronne, France during the German occupation during the First World War. I don't know if it's the way Jojo wrote about life during such a time that drew me into the book or the fact that Sophie was a really good heroine. But either way, I read through and found myself enjoying it.
As you know, I'm a massive sucker for love stories and The Girl You Left Behind didn't fail to deliver. The story is divided into two parts - one part set in 1916 and the other in 2006 - and alternates throughout the book. Set in 1916, the story follows Sophie Leferve, wife of Edouard, a painter who is forced to fight in the front during the war against Germans. She spends her days praying for the well being of her husband while serving for the Germans as their cook. Sophie would do anything she could to reunite with her husband, including sacrificing her good name. On the other side of the story, there is Liv Halston, who is devastated by her husband's sudden death and still clings onto The Girl You Left Behind, a painting given to her by her late husband. Coping with her sudden loss, with only the painting to get her by, until the Leferves come searching for The Girl You Left Behind, which is supposedly rightfully theirs.
Honestly, I was a bit sceptical when I saw the reviews on Goodreads saying The Girl You Left Behind is "compelling", "heartbreaking" and "heartwarming". But I dismissed the idea of it and decided against others' reviews and carried on reading. Don't get me wrong, I like History as a subject, but not when I'm reading fiction, but somehow, just somehow, Sophie's story had kept me intrigued and wanting to know more. Thoughts started to swirl in my head "Will she meet Edouard again?", "Will she be safe?", "What happened to her after the war?". Clearly it was thought-provoking.
Normally, I'd prefer books written from the heroine's perspective, as I find it slightly harder to understand if they are narrated from a third person's point of view. But Jojo Moyes is an exception, followed by a handful of authors whose writing style I'm comfortable with, namely Jenny Colgan. I really like how Jojo describe the hardship faced by the people in Sophie's village during the occupation, how they coped with their loss and living day by day, praying the war would end. On the other hand, Liv's side of the story where she copes with her husband's death and feeling the loneliest she's ever been.
For me, it was really absorbing and utterly captivating. It got me hooked onto it and as I read, I was hoping for both women's happy ending. Some parts were really heartbreaking while others were pleasant. The plot is written very well and it never failed to keep me guessing. Now I know why Jojo's readers love her books. I am looking forward to her next one already! Bring it on, Jojo! If you love a good romantic love story, what are you waiting for?show more
by Kevin Loh