Culture Street

Books

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

On November 12, 2012

By Sophia Whitfield

The Girl You Left Behind is a captivating novel spanning centuries. The book was released in October and is available as an audiobook.

JoJo Moyes just keeps getting better and better. Last year we reviewed her new release, Me Before You, about a young man left a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident. Only a year later Moyes has released her next book. The only similarity between the two is that both have been meticulously researched.

In 1916 occupied France Sophie, a young woman, pines for her husband, Edouard Lefevre, currently fighting at the Front. The small town of St Peronne, where Sophie lives, has been occupied by the Germans. Sophie and her sister Helene run the local hotel, Le Coq Rouge, and have been instructed to feed the Germans. In return for their service they are given food and are on occasion allowed to eat the leftovers.

The German Kommandant begins to show an interest in Sophie, a painting of her that hangs on the wall of the hotel catches his eye. The portrait of Sophie was painted by her husband, Edouard Lefevre, a contemporary of Matisse.  The Kommandant‘s fascination with Sophie may well lead to her undoing.

100 years later, in 2006, Liv stares at the painting that hangs on her bedroom wall. The Girl You Left Behind was a gift from her husband just before his tragic death. Widowed in her twenties, Liv is struggling to keep going, seemingly immobilised, still living in the beautiful glass house created by her late architect husband.

Liv begins to find a renewed strength from the painting, her husband’s legacy to her. As she delves further into the history of the painting, she uncovers the truth behind Sophie Lefevre’s life.  Liv reveals a love story full of passion, fraught by tragedy, as the First World War rages on.

With her title Moyes cleverly captures the painting that was left behind, Sophie, left behind by her husband fighting at the Front and Liv, widowed in her twenties by her husband. As Moyes weaves her stories, two romances are revealed, both thwarted, but enduring.

The Girl You Left Behind is the emotional journey of Liv and Sophie, two lives centuries apart, linked inextricably by a painting and their willingness to fight for love. Make some time for yourself to sit down and read this book.

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