Author: JoJo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: August 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Literature
Synopsis from Goodreads:
What happened to the girl you left behind?
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…
In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.
I am always hesitant to read a book that goes from past to present, alternating periods through the chapter. Why? Because when it’s done-it’s either awesome or falls flat…no in between. However, Jojo writes the time periods flawlessly and brings the story to life! Told by two women, one past-one present, the women both share many similarities. They are strong willed, determined, have an interrupted marriage, and face scrutiny and criticism for the choices made.
There were times when I was so involved in the storyline, that I started to act like my great-grandmother-yelling at the book to warn each woman! Although, for my great-grandma, she was yelling at the tv-at a wrestling match….yeah, a bit different circumstance!
I could understand why Sophie and Liv were willing to risk everything for love (Sophie’s love for her husband and Liv’s love for a painting that represented the love her husband shared with her), but I also felt their choices were too extreme. Until, I realized that I was no different that the villagers, yelling at Sophie and being judgmental without knowing the full picture. Sometimes, people make decisions that make seem impulsive to those on the outside, but if you are passionate about it, then risking everything is far better than sitting and losing everything out of fear.
If you are a fan of historical fiction or are 30 years and older, then chances are, you’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank and saw the movie, “Schindler’s List”. In those two stories, we catch a glimpse of the ones who defied the odds and helped Jewish families. Jojo Moyes gives us a closer look into the impact Hitler’s regime had on the small towns around concentration camps, as well as a closer look into the Nazi soldier’s daily work and the control they exerted on the townspeople. Controlled newspapers, rations, left over and molded bread, separated families, and living on fear was a daily occurrence for Sophie and her family.
Sophie is separated from her husband and his painting is what helps remind her of the beauty he saw in her, the love they shared, and the promise of his return.
Liz is a widow, left in a clean, sterile home, designed by her husband. The only color in her home is a painting that her husband purchased, while on their honeymoon. She is lonely, her friend is a homeless woman that lives outside her home, and the only attachment she has is that picture. She has a father, who dresses in his wife’s robes, is quite needy and always seems to freak out when his wife walks out on them. A bit immature??? Possibly. But, that is Liz’s world and the painting reflects the love and beauty she shared with her husband.
Over the course of events, Liz and Sophie are brought together, secrets are revealed-then hidden away, and both learn more about themselves as they defy the odds and do what love leads them to do. There are so many layers to this story, within a story, that it will keep you engaged in the story until the very end.
The painting is quite magical because of how it connect so many people over the course of generations. I found that I wasn’t partial to one story over another, instead I was so immersed, that I was sad to see both stories end and come full circle.
Book clubs will love this story! The questions would be endless and offer great discussion!! Afterwards, I’d suggest everyone go to an art museum and get curious about the story behind the art!
A huge thank you to She Reads and Pamela Dorman books for giving me the opportunity to read this book! No forms of compensation were given!