THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND
by Jojo Moyes, Review & ARC Giveaway
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books,
Jojo Moyes at her signing at ALA – Chicago
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 review – in two parts:
Part 1: Written on 7/20/13
I need to spend some time digesting this novel before I complete my review. I will say this – I am so glad I read the prequel (HONEYMOON IN PARIS) – See my review on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…
Or the next day.
Must. Close. My. Mouth. It’s on the floor.
Part 2: Written on 7/23/13
Impactful. Eye-opening. Shocking.
Okay. Deep breath.
I’ve been thinking about how to review this novel. A lot. And why it affected me so much. I’ve come to the realization that there are several things that deeply impacted me. The characters and the experiences are so real, that, as the reader, you get completely absorbed in what has happened to them. This experience is similar to what many would say happened while reading SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay.
Moyes tells two stories in this novel, which eventually intertwine. The first takes place St. Pieronne, France in 1916/17 and is told in first person by Madame Sophie Lefevre. The men are away at war and Germans occupy much of France, including St. Pieronne where Sophie and her family live and run a hotel that’s been completely stripped of anything of value by the Germans. What Sophie does to protect/shield/feed her family and the village is incredibly heroic. What struck me to the core was how brutal the Germans were. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW. I know a ton about WWII. But I didn’t have a clue about WWI. Was I not listening in history class? Or wasn’t this taught? The Holocaust was HELL on earth, but I had no idea that the Germans did many of the same things during WWI – carting people off to camps, putting them in trains. And the brutality! It gutted me, but ultimately didn’t shock me. What shocked me was how the village people treated Sophie. You’ll have to read the novel to understand what I mean.
Now that I got that out of the way, let me explain that much of this story revolves around a stunning portrait of Sophie painted by her husband Edouard. The Kommandant can’t keep his eyes off the painting. It is this painting that connects the second story in this novel.
The second story takes place in 2006 and is told in third person. Liv Halston is a young widow in possession of Edouard’s painting of Sophie. His family wants it back. The twists and turns and the concept of reparation is an important issue, and a heated one, especially to Holocaust survivors or descendants who are fighting to get their families’ wealth back when it was stolen from them during WWII. But Liv’s painting had no connection to WWII. Yet Edouard’s family and the company they hired to get Sophie’s painting back, use this issue to sway public opinion and makes Liv a villain.
This ripped my heart out on so many different levels. I am deeply sympathetic to those who lost everything in the Holocaust. Yet, at the same time, I saw how absolutely wrong it was to throw the weight of this onto Liv’s shoulders. Horribly painful.
To further complicate things, Liv is in a relationship that has a HUGE personal implication and connection to this case.
This novel is . . .
so incredibly impactful and eye-opening!
deals with important issues.
filled with so many deep, personal wounds.
It brings up an intense need to have the characters, especially Liv, heal, live, and have HOPE.
I’m tempted to say more, but I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.
Like Jojo’s previous novel that I reviewed, ME BEFORE YOU, THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND will stay with me for a long time. I suspect I’ll be thinking about it and talking about it for years to come.
I highly recommend this novel. But be prepared, it will affect you!
Put this on your must-read list.
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For another opportunity to win THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, go to: Chick Lit Central