Monday, October 7, 2013

Julie's Review: The Girl You Left Behind

Summary:  From the New York Times–bestselling author of Me Before You, a spellbinding love story of two women separated by a century but united in their determination to fight for what they love most. Jojo Moyes's bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has struck a chord with readers everywhere. “Hopelessly and hopefully romantic” (Chicago Tribune), Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker that asks, “Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?” France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard's portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer's dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything — her family, her reputation, and her life — to see her husband again. Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is — putting Liv's belief in what is right to the ultimate test. Like Sarah Blake's The Postmistress and Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key, The Girl You Left Behind is a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with Moyes's signature ability to capture our hearts with every turn of the page. 

Review: The German occupation of France in World War I is often overlooked for the occupation with the Nazi regime. The first occupation is where Ms. Moyes sets the historical part of her novel The Girl You Left Behind. I can't imagine being in the position Sophie and her sister Helene were in during the war. To have both of your husbands fighting to win back France from the Germans and then to be told that you will be the place that will serve food to the troops? How do you not do what you should to survive? How do you live with yourself when you know what people are saying? Not only are they saying it behind your back but they are brazen enough to say it to your face, in front of children. When all you can think about is being back with your husband and are so desperate for him, do you do desperate things?

Then we are back in the mid-2000s with Liv who, after 4 years of dealing with her husband's death, still isn't fully back in the land of the living, has to make a crucial decision about a painting that she truly loves. Does it of course have something to do with the fact that it was a gift from her husband? Of course but it's more of a personal connection to the women in the painting. Liv is a mess. There I've said it. The fight for the painting is one thing that is keeping her feet on the planet. She has been in a fog and it is now starting to lift. It is through her fight for the painting that she begins to realize that she needs to let go of the past and start to move on with her life. I love how she fought for something she loved but when it was brought to her attention that it was having negative effects elsewhere, she began to see a bit more clearly.

I loved how Ms. Moyes showed that the past always illuminates the present. That we can always learn something from the past; good, bad or even ugly. Sure, the ending was tied up with a nice big bow, but in this instance I didn't mind. Sometimes you just want the happily ever after. Especially for characters who had been through so much tragedy. I also can't write the review without saying how the title is woven through the novel on so many different levels. I love it when that happens.

I still have Me Before You in my TBR pile but it's been pushed up to the pile of books to be read in December. I'm looking forward to reading her debut novel.

Final Take:  4.5/5

Thank you to Pamela Dorman Books and for my copy of the novel.




Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) October 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM  

This was my first Moyes novel and I loved it. Rich in history, characters and story, it is easily one of my favorites for the year. I'm planning to read Me Before You very soon as well.

DoingDewey October 19, 2013 at 8:56 PM  

I was definitely glad of the happy ever after ending. It was so unexpected and extra enjoyable for coming after the unhappiness earlier :)

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