Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

1916 occupied France, a young artist named Edouard LeFevre, leaves his wife, Sophie, to fight in the Great War.

Before he left, he painted her portrait and titled it ‘The Girl You Left Behind’. This painting has become her most prized possession.

When her husband and is imprisoned, Sophie clings to the painting. Unfortunately the painting is admired by many in the small village…particularly the local Kommandant.

He not only falls in love with the painting but with the real life subject as well and essentially holds Sophie captive.

Sophie is soon faced with some tough decisions. She loves her husband desperately but she is stuck in an awkward situation with the Kommandant’s attention.

She is desperate to see Edouard again and ultimately decides to put her life and reputation on the line for that dream to come true.

Flash forward to modern day, Liv Halston is grieving the loss of her husband. After four years she is still struggling to move on with her life.

She continues to cling to a painting that her husband gave her on their honeymoon, ‘The Girl You Left Behind’.

Suddenly the ownership of the painting comes into question. Paul McCafferty works for an art recovery firm that is working with the descendants of Edouard LeFevre to recover the prized painting now owned by Liv.

Liv desperately tries to prove the painting was a gift so she can hold onto a little piece of her deceased husband. As the story progresses, Liv starts to fall for Paul and realizes that her heart might be ready to love again.

I love novels with duel stories and time periods happening. The only thing I struggled with was that I had to keep reminding myself that this novel was set in WWI not WWII.

I was curious why the author picked WWI and not WWII as the period setting….I don’t think it would have altered the novel really and I think readers naturally think WWII when they hear references to Germans and occupied France etc. It was more of a style preference for me I guess.

Moyes does a great job with the historic aspect of this novel. She did an extensive amount of research and while I was reading I felt like I got a complete historic background on the time period and what was happening in France.

The love story between Sophie and Edouard was moving, tender, and memorable. I was so captivated and taken by their enduring devotion to each other. I also like how she portrayed the Kommandant. He wasn’t necessarily an evil man but he had orders to do evil things…I thought that made him more real and relate-able. The dynamic between Sophie and the Kommandant was also interesting and complex.

Moyes does a fantastic job illustrating these characters and making them colorful and rich, however for some reason the love story between Liv and Paul fell flat for me.

That was a disappointment because I felt like the Sophie/Edouard story was so well written and the modern day love story just lacked the same depth and character development that I was expecting. It’s hard to explain my reasoning but overall I just felt like Liv and Paul weren’t as solid as the other characters.

Moyes has a wonderful storytelling style. Her novels are always sweeping, moving, and usually include a component of tragedy but in the end the reader walks away feeling like the ending was fitting, no matter how sad. When I finished the book I felt very satisfied with where things ended up at.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

  • Hardcover, 384 pages
  • Published August 20th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books (first published September 27th 2012)
  • ISBN 0670026611 (ISBN13: 9780670026616)
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Historic fiction, romance

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, she realizes suddenly, it is simply a matter of blind faith.

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