Title: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: JoJo Moyes
Genre: Adult Fiction/Historical Fiction
Reviewer: Emily Bedwell
Summary via Goodreads:
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…
I first read JoJo Moyes over the summer when someone at the library introduced me to her via Me Before You. I loved that book and had high expectations for The Girl You Left Behind. The two books, in reality, couldn’t be more different, but they are both beautiful in their own ways.
The Girl You Left Behind takes place in two different timelines; the early 1900s and the early 2000s. The girl in question is both a real person Sophie LeFevre, and a painting made of her that endures past the first war, second war and into the 21st century. Their stories are woven together as both Sophie and her painting continue to impact the world.
Masterfully told, The Girl You Left Behind is part historical fiction and part adult contemporary. The historical part of the book is wrought with the pain and sorrow and struggle of a woman trying to survive to see her husband again through a dark war. Sophie is weak and strong at the same time and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her family alive. The dark moments of the German occupation are written to evoke the fear of the time period.
When the book transitions to the contemporary world, it feels a little like the rug has been pulled out from under you. While it is also well written, it didn’t keep my attention quite as much. While I enjoyed learning what happened to the painting, and, in turn, Sophie, I would have enjoyed the story just as much without the modern elements.
3.5/5 bookmarks. Well written and executed, but I didn’t need the parallel stories to feel like it was completed.