The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another wonderful triumph for the sensational Ms Moyes.
A dual time narrative story, although instead of changing narrative rapidly between eras as is often the style, the historical part lets you get deeply involved for about 150 pages before casting you into the 21st century, then the modern story takes over with brief revisits to the past emerging here and there, it works very well making sure you are deeply immersed in the story of Sophie before meeting her modern day contemporary Liv..
Set in 1916 the first world war is raging throughout Europe and in occupied France Sophie and her sister Helene run what remains of the family hotel whilst their husbands are away fighting the Boche. We experience the hardship of life in a small French town under German occupation, the deprivations and worries and the small attempts at resistance which make life seem liveable. As Sophie works to feed the ungrateful and increasingly demanding German troops occupying the town she reminisces about her brief marriage to the love of her life, artist husband Edouard Lefevre whose portrait of her, the girl he left behind, hangs in the hall of the hotel as a constant reminder of their devotion to each other.
Worries for his safety almost destroy Sophies sanity - there is practically nothing she wouldn't do to ensure his safe return to her.
Back in modern day London Liv is young woman with worries of her own, recently widowed the death of her successful architect husband David has caused not only grief but financial stress as she battles to make ends meet and keep the stunning designer home he built for them.
As she battles to overcome her loss she is watched over by a painting given to her on their honeymoon - The girl he left behind hangs on her bedroom wall, bringing back treasured memories of better days.
And thus the 2 stories become interlinked, and the twin themes of love lost and deciding how far you will go to preserve memories and past love weaves an intriguing and pare turning story.
I literally couldn't put this book down - sent to me by a friend, I picked it up the minute it plopped through my letterbox and despite already being half way through another book and with a teetering To be read pile waiting, I picked it up, read a few sentences and was hooked.
The whole story keeps you wanting to read just a few more pages, lost of lovely well thought out twists and turns to keep you guessing and of course the inevitable box of tissues needed at least in one part in particular. The end is superbly satisfying and well crafted and the whole book is a sheer delight to read.
Jojo MoyesJojo Moyes previous book Me before youMe Before You was most definitely one of my top books of this year, and The girl you left behind will join it, although I do think of the 2 her previous book was marginally the best - the emotional connection I felt with that was intense and all consuming.
Although I adored every word of the girl you left behind, the occupied France setting in a small hotel reminded me just a touch TOO much of the 1970s tv comedy series 'Allo 'allo and this cast a vague hint of farce over the parts in occupied France which I felt a touch uneasy with being such an emotive subject. But thats probably just me and I'm sure was unintentional. It would however make me possibly think of it as 9/10 rather than the 10/10 I gave the previous book as that was such a hard act to follow - still amazing writing and storytelling though. Very highly recommended.
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