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REVIEW: 'The Girl You Left Behind' by Jojo Moyes

Monday, January 21, 2013

Title: ‘The Girl you Left Behind’
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Penguin
Age Group & Genre: Adult Fiction – Parallel Contemporary/Historical 

The Blurb:

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

What I Liked About This Book: 
Is there anything more wonderful than discovering a fabulous new author?

I had not read anything by Jojo Moyes before, but was drawn to this book because of its parallel narrative structure and because it is set in France during the First World War, one of my favourite historical periods and, of course, one of my favourite places in the world. 

'The Girl You Left Behind' starts in occupied France during World War I, with the main character, Sophie Lefevre standing up the local German Kommandant. He sees a painting of Sophie, rendered by her artist-husband who is off fighting the German army. The Kommandant is drawn irresistibly to the painting – and to its beautiful, red-haired subject – and begins to show her favour. This attracts the suspicion and contempt of the other French villagers, and sets in chain a series of tragic events. 

The action then moves to modern-day London, where the young widow Liv now owns the painting and becomes the centre of a legal battle by the Lefevre family to get it back. 

I usually find I like the historical sections of a parallel narrative the best, but in this book I really enjoyed both strands and feared and worried for both of the protagonists. There’s romance and drama and suspense aplenty in both sections of the book – I really loved it and am looking forward to reading more books by Jojo Noyes (she has a back list!)

'The Girl She Left Behind' by Jojo Moyes was one of the best books I read in 2012 - check out the others!

Other parallel narratives you may also enjoy: 

Sharon commented on 25-Jan-2013 09:54 PM
Great review.

I finished this book this afternoon and I echo your thoughts on it. I loved it. Moyes has such a great way of storytelling. I also read and adored Me Before You, the other book she published in 2012.

You're right, I cared about both Sophie and Liv. Once she moved from 1917 to 2006 (or vice versa), I had to keep reading until I was back with the other character to make sure she was safe. As a result, I had to miss out on a fair amount of sleep. My only gripe was the epilogue. I'm not sure it was needed.

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