This is the Shereads.org monthly pick for October–and is one hell of a great book! If you are not familiar with She Reads, please take a moment to visit the website and see all of the wonderful things us ladies are up to–including promoting literacy.
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.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is worthy of five stars. In my opinion it is worthy of ten, but there is one small thing I would like to mention. The cover. In my opinion the cover of this book does not do the contents any justice. For a book that is based around the beauty of art and architecture, this cover just seems plain.
Now, for the book itself. It is not often that I lose myself in a book to the extent that I feel like I have become one of the characters. In this case, it happened to me twice. The portions of this book that dealt with the German Occupation of France made me feel so close to Sophie, and later in the more present chapters, to Liv. In this novel, you really can see the world through their eyes, thanks to the beautiful and descriptive writing of JoJo Moyes. I felt the pain they felt, the hope and the joy–which is something I don’t find often in novels.
This story is not an easy one to read, at times. The horrors of occupied France are laid bare for the reader, and yet every part of this is beautifully written and well thought out. The sad realities of the time are revisited, yes, but the characters that the author creates are so vivid and full of life that you see this history in a completely new light.
I have read quite a few books that dealt with art history and missing or stolen paintings, and this is the first one that really impressed me. Throughout each step of the process of proving ownership of “the Girl You Left Behind,” The emotions of Liv and her reasoning for keeping up her fight were obvious. There was no boring description of legal processes involved and the story progressed even during the most intense of times smoothly and seemingly without much effort. This is a book that you will want to escape to a hideaway with and be left alone to your reading.
At the core of this novel is an amazing love between two characters that spans many years. This is the kind of love, in my opinion, that makes reading a book like this worth the time. The plot is complex, there are obstacles and hurdles to overcome, but in the end, the love story is both impressive and emotional. I could not have asked for a better resolution in the end.
I loved that the author was able to tell two love stories side by side and make them both interesting and appropriate for the time periods they were set in. The parallels between the earlier years in the book and the more modern times were amazing. I also loved that the value of the painting in question was depicted as so much more than monetary. That a single object could touch the lives and hearts of so many was profound.
If I had to choose a favourite part of this book, it would be the final discoveries about the Kommandant. His character is not only vital to this story, but extremely well written. He does not require entire paragraphs of dialogue to give the reader a sense of his personality and it is the mysterious quality he brings to the book that kept me turning pages more than anything else. I love this character!
This is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. If you enjoy reading complex stories that span the lifetimes of many characters and yet tie together expertly, this book is one you should read.
This review is based on a digital ARC from Netgalley and the Publisher.