Book Review: THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes

This review appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers last week, and is reprinted here with permission.

girl you left behindJojo Moyes follows her word-of-mouth hit Me Before You (one of my top three 2012 reads) with The Girl You Left Behind, a story that unfolds in two times and places.

The novel opens in 1916 in a small French town, where German soldiers commandeer Sophie and her sister Helene’s hotel for dinner every night, forcing the sisters to cook and serve meals like servants.

A portrait of Sophie, painted by Edouard, her husband, catches the Kommandant’s eye, and he begins showing her kindnesses not extended to anyone else. Sophie risks her honor by asking the Kommandant to help free Edouard from a prison camp, for which the German wants something in return.

In 2006, Liv is still mourning her husband, David, four years after his sudden death. Her most prized possession is a painting David gave her on their honeymoon. Then a man comes to claim it as restitution for the painter’s descendants, saying the piece was stolen from Edouard Lefevre’s family during World War I. Liv fights to keep the painting at the risk of losing everything, including a new chance at love.

Moyes’s prose is very accessible, easily taking readers inside Sophie’s and Liv’s psyches. The dual timelines, though, aren’t entirely successful, since fans of historical novels might prefer the 1916 sections, while those who like contemporary fiction might wish to remain in the present. But both parts have strong lead characters, and the novel asks readers to explore what’s right and wrong, and the gray area in between.

Nerd verdict: Well-painted Girl

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