Rating: 4.5 / 5
**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from Penguin**
In 1916, Germans have occupied the French small village of St. Peronne during World War I. Sophie LeFevre and her sister, Helene, are tasked with feeding the German army every night at their family hotel, La Coq. Against convention and to the dismay of the whole village, Sophie and the German Kommandant strike up an unusual relationship. The Kommandant has an appreciation for the arts, and especially for the painting of Sophie, “The Girl You Left Behind” done by her husband Edouard before he left to fight in the war. The village soon turns against Sophie, believing that she is helping the Germans, and with nothing left to lose, she uses the painting has a final resort to be reconnected with Edouard.
Present day, “The Girl You Left Behind” hangs on the wall in Liv Halston’s house. It was given to her by her architect husband, David, while honeymooning in Barcelona. Although he died four years ago, Liv has not found the willpower to move on, still living in the glass dream house David designed. It is soon discovered that “The Girl You Left Behind” might have been stolen during the war, and now LeFevre’s descendants are attempting to reclaim the piece. Liv is adamant about keeping the painting since it was purchased fairly, and because she cannot bear to part with a gift from David. In the midst of fighting to keep the painting, Liv is also struggling to make ends meet and keep David’s dream house.
I loved The Girl You Left Behind from the get-go. Moyes completely pulled me into Sophie’s story, but at a critical moment, stops and begins with Liv’s story. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what ultimately happened to Sophie and Edouard. Sophie’s storyline was much more compelling than Liv’s but that is expected since Sophie lived in a time of unspeakable tragedy, and it would have been difficult to execute split narratives with both storylines competing equally for the reader’s attention.
Although not a tear jerker like Me Before You, I did thoroughly enjoy The Girl You Left Behind. It was compelling, sweet, and really demonstrated human strength, resolve, and the capacity to love in the direst of times.
Also by Jojo Moyes: