Book Review #32: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Historical fiction, Contemporary
Synopsis: 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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts: After loving Jojo Moyes’ previous book, Me Before You, so ferociously, I admit I was expecting something of that same degree with this new book. Did it live up to my expectations? …Umm, somewhat.
The Girl You Left Behind is told through two parallel stories: the first story set in 1916 during WWI, narrated by Sophie Lefevre while her little French town is being occupied by a German army; the second story set in 2006 London, narrated by Liv Halston. Despite being separated by a hundred years, these two women are connected through chance and both leave their marks on each other’s lives and legacies.
I’m usually a big fan of dual stories, just because I find it so interesting how the author connects the stories together and make it seem plausible (sometimes they fail though). But Moyes didn’t fail with this. Both stories made sense and I wasn’t left at the end shaking my head in disbelief. I was, however, slightly disheartened by the modern day story. For me, I was way more invested in Sophie’s story. I cried for her, shouted for her, yearned for her happiness and felt out of breath when her part had come to an end. I didn’t want to leave her for Liv, even though I wanted to know more. So jumping into Liv’s story wasn’t very enthusiastic on my part. And I think that’s what made it harder for me. I was already less interested in her story because I loved Sophie, and as Liv’s story continued, I found myself caring less and less. Of course I felt for her husband’s loss, I cried for her life too and the hands of fate she was dealt. I don’t even want to imagine waking up in the morning to find Fil cold. I just…no. My heart ached for Liv’s heartache. But that didn’t make her parallel story any better.
Liv’s late husband had given her a painting called The Girl You Left Behind (the portrait of Sophie) during their honeymoon and since then, Sophie has been a source of support for Liv during her difficult times. When she finds out that the family of the painting’s artist wants to take back that painting that was presumably stolen during WWI, Liv fights back with as much force she can muster to keep Sophie. For me, I just didn’t get it. I think it was the fact that Liv was fighting for something that I would have just given back. Yes, her late husband had bought The Girl You Left Behind, but I would have realized he wouldn’t have wanted me to go so much in debt for just a painting. I didn’t understand why Liv was putting so much money into a lawsuit when she was already so much behind in her payments. The logical side of me just didn’t grasp that. And the courtroom scenes, while interesting by giving us more background information on Sophie’s story and teaching me more about the legalities of stolen artwork from the wars, were just a tad over-dramatic—particularly the final scene. I’m sorry, but doesn’t the legal system have processes for witnesses and evidence? The end scene just seemed a little convenient, albeit wonderful and sad.
And then there was her budding romance with Paul. After four long years of being alone, I understood Liv’s both hesitancy and joy in meeting someone else. And he was a really great guy. Sure, she got mad at him a lot in the book, but I never understood why. Reason just wasn’t one of her strongest suits, and Liv consistently believed her way was the only way and everyone else be damned. It took her a while to grow into the person she used to be with her late husband, and it was nice seeing her grow with Paul. I am a sucker for love…
On the whole, I enjoyed this book and cried with happiness at the end, but it wasn’t my favourite book. It definitely wasn’t as amazing and tear-inducing as Me Before You. And between the two stories, I liked Sophie’s the best. Liv’s story was just too drawn out. But even so, Jojo Moyes’ words are enchanting and make me feel things even when I’m not expecting to. I just love this woman.
My Rating: 3.75/5 (yes, I can be that exact)
“Nobody listens any more. Everyone knows what they want to hear, but nobody actually listens.”
“Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, she realizes suddenly, it is simply a matter of blind faith.”
“It’s just stuff…The only thing that matters is people…All that really matters is who you love.”
“The prisoner dropped his backpack and appeared to pick up speed. He stumbled as he lost his second shoe, but somehow righted himself. He was about to disappear around the corner. The Kommandant whipped a pistol from his jacket. Almost before I had registered what he was doing, he lifted his arm, aimed and fired. The boy went down with an audible crack.” —This actually happened guys!
And now for the fun! I’ve been given the opportunity to host a giveaway to my followers, with the prize being a copy of The Girl You Left Behind. You don’t want to miss out, so enter now!