The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
(Pamela Dorman Books, 2013, 384 pages)
I really enjoyed the first book I read by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, so after Sadie went on a mini-Moyes kick it re-sparked my interest and I decided to go through her backlist for some good summer reading. The Girl You Left Behind switches between WWI and the present-ish day (2006). We are first introduced to Sophie, a woman living in a small German-occupied city in France. She lives with her brother, sister, and her sister’s two children in their family’s hotel. As Sophie and her sister wait for word on their husbands who are off fighting, the Germans decide that their hotel will be the perfect new dining spot. Sophie and her sister are now in charge of cooking meals and cleaning up for these men they can’t stand. One of the German higher-ups, Herr Kommandant, takes an interest in Sophie, especially after seeing a portrait of her painted by her husband. It captures Sophie as she once was and it’s riveting. This painting ends up causing a lot of problems down the line…
In the present-day we meet Liv – a young widow who has had a hard time moving on since her husband, David, died. She lives in the glass and concrete house her husband designed and even though it’s not her aesthetic it reminds her of David. One thing that stands out against the cold lines in the house is a painting called “The Girl You Left Behind,” a gift David got for her on their honeymoon. Liv loves the portrait; something about the painting just speaks to her. Thanks to a sad twist of fate Liv is drawn into a custody battle for the portrait when the man she finally feels comfortable moving on with turns out to be working to return “The Girl You Left Behind” to its original owners who claim it was stolen during wartime. Liv can’t bear to part with it, especially since she has proof the painting was fairly purchased and it holds sentimental value for her. As she does research on the painting and its model (Sophie) she finds herself getting drawn deeper and deeper into its history. But will she be able to keep it without forcing herself into bankruptcy and losing what seemed to be a fleeting chance at love?
This was an enjoyable and quick read. I’ll be picking up more Moyes titles very soon 🙂
You can also check out Sadie’s review of this title.