The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes
Fiction – Contemporary/Historical
Published August 20th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books
Backstory time: Me Before You was one of my favorite books that I read last year. I’m now super stoked for the movie and am constantly trying not to tear up during the trailer. I (annoyingly) haven’t really read any more Jojo Moyes and I keep intending to because I really liked her writing style. This was my first pick and it was okay for me. It was good but I just didn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to.
Part 1 (1916) – Sophie’s small town in France falls to the Germans and her husband is captured and moved to a prison camp. One of the few things left to remember him by is a painting he created of her, titled The Girl You Left Behind. The painting portrays Sophie as daring and brave and sexy, things she can’t quite see in herself. Becoming increasingly desperate to see her husband again, she barters the portrait that he painted of her with the Kommandant in an attempt to save her husband’s life.
Part 2 (present day) – Liv is having a hard time after her husband’s sudden death. Her favorite thing to remember him by is a painting he bought for her on their honeymoon because it reminded him of her. With her impending bankruptcy it is the one bright spot in her home that makes her feel like things will be okay. When Liv finally puts herself back out there and meets Paul, her painting becomes the center of a controversy. Sophie’s husband’s family climb out of the woodwork to claim that the painting was stolen during wartime and rightfully belongs to their estate. Liv is willing to put everything she has into fighting for this painting and learns everything she can about Sophie’s story.
I honestly don’t know what I thought about this book. The beginning part with Sophie and her sister and how they cope and all of the town politics was fantastic. Embarrassing anecdote: I did not realize this was WWI until much later on in the book… I just never even questioned the dates. So yeah for everyone else who is awful with detail you are not alone. My biggest peeve with this book is everything I loved about the details with Sophie and her life were lacking with Liv. I just couldn’t connect with her at all. Plus there was just so much of her and it was 80% of the book, and all of that was filled with her whining about people wanting to take her portrait away. I get it, but come on lady you’re going bankrupt here. My favorite part was when her roommate asked her what David (her husband) would be doing if he was in her situation. I understood Sophie and Edouards love for one another even though he was nonexistent except in a few flashbacks, but I could feel their passion. Paul and Liz were actually together and I couldn’t get behind their relationship, it just felt so dry.
I did love the ending though. After the painfully long court battle the epilogue tied everything up into a nice little bow and I was happy with that. It was emotional and satisfying and I wish the story would have showcased that sentiment more throughout.
“Nobody fights you like your own sister; nobody else knows the most vulnerable parts of you and will aim for them without mercy.”
“I know it’s been tough. But we’re terribly proud of you, you know.” “For what?” She says blowing her nose. “I failed, Dad. Most people think I shouldn’t have even tried.” “Just for carrying on, really. Sometimes, my darling girl, that’s heroic in itself.”
Is this my favorite book by this author? No. Will I read more by her? Yes. I loved what should have been happening with the time jump just not the execution of it. I needed more Sophie, who in the middle of a war still managed to whine less than Liz. I know I sound nitpicky and this was a solid book, I was just hoping for more. I am glad I read it though and would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy summer read. Not good or bad, just there, any other Jojo Moyes books that people loved? I’m thinking One Plus One next?