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128 of 131 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pictures painted
Jojo Moyes is fast becoming one of my favourite authors - I loved Me Before You and The Last Letter, and was really excited to read this new novel.

The Girl You Left Behind opens grippingly with the story of Sophie Lefevre and her family. It is 1916, and her French village has been occupied by the Germans - life is tough. Sophie's husband Edouard, an artist, is...
Published on 9 July 2012 by Sukie

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111 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing
I feel bad about writing anything remotely negative about this book. I first read JoJo Moyes a few months ago when I read "Me before you" - a book that made me love, laugh, sob and grieve. I don't think I had ever read a book quite like it and I could not wait for the new novel.

I was lucky enough to get a pre-release and it arrived yesterday.......I read the...
Published on 1 July 2012 by FLB


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128 of 131 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pictures painted, 9 July 2012
By 
Sukie (South Coast) - See all my reviews
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Jojo Moyes is fast becoming one of my favourite authors - I loved Me Before You and The Last Letter, and was really excited to read this new novel.

The Girl You Left Behind opens grippingly with the story of Sophie Lefevre and her family. It is 1916, and her French village has been occupied by the Germans - life is tough. Sophie's husband Edouard, an artist, is away at war and she and her sister Helene are struggling to make ends meet, running Le Coq Rouge, the village inn. Then a German Kommandant insists that they begin cooking for his men, much to Sophie's disgust. Chillingly, the Kommandant seems to take a liking to Sophie, and appears bewitched by the portrait Edouard painted of her, entitled The Girl You Left Behind. Can Sophie use his liking of her to get information about her husband... or is that a dangerous game too far?

The action turns to the present day and we meet Liv Halston, a young widow, who is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life following the death of her beloved husband, David. The Girl You Left Behind now hangs on her wall, a gift from David, yet she has no idea of the story behind the painting... until the Lefevre family start trying to trace the missing artwork, claiming that it was looted illegally by the German army during the war, and should rightfully be returned to them. Desperate not to be parted from her husband's gift, Liv digs in her heels. Moyes cleverly reveals the story of Sophie, and the two women's lives become entwined.

I absolutely loved the first half of this book - I was gripped by Sophie's storyline. She is a great character - feisty and resourceful, proud, spirited and loving - yet fallible and vulnerable too. I found the second half of the novel much slower and in all honesty, a bit long. I wished that the legal part of the story could have been cut right back, I much preferred the relationship dramas to this element. I also lost some sympathy for Liv and wasn't quite convinced by some of her actions.

Overall, I enjoyed the book - Moyes writes brilliantly as ever - but for me, it didn't pack quite the same emotional punch as this author's previous novels.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 29 Jun 2012
By 
Joey (London) - See all my reviews
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This is the third JoJo Moyes book I have read. I wasn't overly fussed by The Last Letter to your Lover but loved Me Before You. Having now read The Girl You Left Behind, I would say it is the best of the three I have read. I must confess, I have even put my son down for his sleeps earlier than normal just to read this book.

The book follws two females, Sophie Lefevre in 1914 occupied France, and Liv Halston in 2006 London. Sophie's husband has been drafted to fight in the war and Liv is a young widow. Both women are linked by a portrait of Sophie that has a dramatic impact on both their lives.

I really want to say what the novel is about but I really don't want to give anything away as this book is such a treat. I am not normally a fan of wartime stories but the Sophie segments are written on a personal level giving the reader an insight into the fear and feelings people of that time must have felt. I felt it was so well written and so compelling that I just did not want to stop reading. Another reviewer has said that they didn't find the situation between Sophie and the Kommandent convincing; I am in two minds over this, on one hand, I will admit to being disappointed in the Kommandent as I felt that maybe he just wanted to be accepted as a person rather than a uniform and therefore just wanted a closeness to someone, but on the other hand, I can see that desperation and fear could drive a person, ie Sophie to do anything to be reunited with her husband.

This is a great read whether you are a fan of JoJo Moyes or not and I can't think of anyone who it won't appeal to. I am already recommending it to all my friends for it's release later this year.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular fiction at its best, 4 July 2012
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
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I loved Jojo Moyes's last novel, 'Me Before You', so I was thrilled to hear she had a new book out (and very grateful to receive an early reading copy). As with 'Me Before You', I raced through this book and didn't want it to end. In some ways, I think it's even better - if only because Moyes sets herself more difficult structural challenges with this one, and avoids the pitfalls of handling multiple narrators more gracefully. I'll say at the start that this book features two of my pet hates in popular (and indeed literary) fiction; a story from the past juxtaposed with a modern-day narrative (often because the author has no idea how to handle historical fiction) and parallels between the two stories (because these are usually obvious and not very illuminating). The fact that Moyes, seemingly effortlessly, manages to make these contrivances seem natural is a sign of the strength of her work.

Sophie Lefevre is trying to survive in an occupied area of France during the First World War, while her husband, Edouard, is away fighting at the front. One small comfort is that she still possesses the picture he painted of her before they were married, 'The Girl You Left Behind'. However, when the Kommandant of the German battalion occupying her village begins to take an interest in Sophie, her position becomes increasingly precarious. In the present day, Liv Halston is still grieving her architect husband, David, who died four years ago; her most precious memento of their relationship is not the house he built for them, but 'The Girl You Left Behind', which David bought for her on her honeymoon. However, when she is served with a court order informing her that the Lefevre family want to contest her ownership of the painting, believing that it was stolen during WW1, it seems that 'Sophie' may be taken from her. Moyes engaged my sympathy for Sophie immediately with the arresting opening scene of this novel, in which Sophie courageously confronts the Kommandant for the first time, and the depiction of her character is vital for the success of the rest of the novel. In some ways, the section set in France is the most gripping part of this book - Moyes brings the plight of the villagers to life, and gives us a sense of what it might have been like to live in 1917 without over-labouring the historical detail - but because we care about Sophie, and what happened to her, we are encouraged to read on into the modern-day section to discover the fate of her painting. Often, it seems unrealistic when characters care too deeply about the life of someone in the distant past, but Moyes brings Sophie to life so effectively that we can see why Liv, and other characters, are invested in the outcome as well.

There are clear parallels between Liv and Sophie's stories, although it's difficult to say much without giving the plot away. One obvious example is the similarities between their situations. When the Germans decide to take over Le Coq Rouge, the hotel that Sophie's family own, at the beginning of the novel, Sophie is suspected of collaboration, and some of the other villagers turn on her. Similarly, Liv's motives for contesting her ownership of her painting are misunderstood, and she is seen as condoning Nazi thefts and war crimes, despite the fact that the Nazis were not involved in her case. Moyes handles this well, not driving the parallels home too heavily but allowing them to connect the two women and enable the book to work as a coherent whole. I also thought it was a wise stylistic choice to have Sophie narrate in first-person and Liv in third-person, rather than the other way around, as this avoided Sophie becoming too distanced from the reader. Two further notes on the plot; I didn't think the situation between Sophie and the Kommandant was unrealistic at all. I thought it was a brave choice on Moyes' part to take the situation as far as she did, in fact. I was afraid throughout the novel that this was being a little whitewashed, with the Kommandant entertaining a false view of himself, but this worry was addressed by a key event near the very end of the book, which I thought was an excellent touch. Again, it's difficult to say more without spoilers!

I highly recommend this book to all Jojo Moyes fans, and it would also be a great place to start if you haven't read any of her work before. I'm now keen to check out her backlist, and have already started 'The Last Letter From Your Lover'.
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111 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, 1 July 2012
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
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I feel bad about writing anything remotely negative about this book. I first read JoJo Moyes a few months ago when I read "Me before you" - a book that made me love, laugh, sob and grieve. I don't think I had ever read a book quite like it and I could not wait for the new novel.

I was lucky enough to get a pre-release and it arrived yesterday.......I read the whole book (400+ pages) in one day, finishing late last night.

I really liked the story of Sophie and occupied France, I could picture Le Coq Rouge and life in the first world war and I was so engrossed in her story I could not put the book down.

Then in the second part came Liv and the prolonged and somewhat dull court battle around the painting Liv was left by her deceased husband. The second part of the book bored me and I found myself almost speed reading through the pages to get back to Sophie.

I am sure the book will be enjoyed by many, the story is clever and is very well written, but my gripe is that I just wasn't moved in the same way 'Me before you' moved me.....I found parts of this story boring, drawn out and not required. I would have quite happily read 500 pages exclusively about Sophie and given it 5 stars.

I am sorry JoJo, but it just didn't thrill me like your last book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting time-slice story, 26 Dec 2012
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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I requested this book on recommendation from my friends who, without exception, raved about it. Now I have read a number of Moyes' books and have found the standard to be pretty variable (but perhaps you just have to be in the right frame of mind?).

Anyway, this starts out well. I love the time-slice aspect of the book, and I could really relate to the WW1 story about Sophie Lefevre. I think Moyes captures the atmosphere of war torn France well and the reader gets a good feeling of how miserable and hard it was for the French people being invaded by the Germans.

As other reviewers have said, I found the modern day story of Liv and her obsession with Sophie's painting less compelling to read, mostly I think because Liv doesn't come across as such a fully rounded and sympathetic character.

Overall, I found this to be a solid and agreeable read, and one that I am sure fans of Jojo Moyes will enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'The Girl You Left Behind' had me so engrossed that I was reading a 100 pages a night., 6 May 2014
Jojo Moyes is an author that slipped through my reading net between 2003 and this year when I found this title in my local public library. Having read the first three books in her back catalogue before moving to Italy, I am now planning to read her more recent novels as delighted to have rediscovered her writing. Disappointing not to have read the ones I missed but maybe I will catch up with them one day. I know too many books and not enough time, but you never know! Anyway I am delighted to have rediscovered this author as 'The Girl You Left Behind' had me so engrossed that I was reading a 100 pages a night before settling down to sleep.

A dual time story about a portrait of Sophie Lefevre, the protagonist of the first part of the novel, which her husband had painted before leaving for war. She lives in occupied St Peronne France in 1914 at the outbreak of WWI, where running the family hotel Sophie and her sister are forced to cook for the German Officers. The portrait of Sophie which hangs in the hotel attracts the attention of one of the officers and he shows sympathy towards her, the problems that this causes bring up complicated questions for her to deal with.
Leaving war torn France on a cliff- hanger the story leaps forward to London in 2006 where we meet the modern day protagonist Liv Halston. Liv is a young widow and now the owner of the very same painting, given to her as a wedding present by her late husband, David. Obviously Liv is very attached to this painting and it comes as a tremendous shock to her to learn that the descendants of the original artist, Sophie's husband Edouard Lefevre are demanding its return to the family. Under a Geneva Convention ruling that prohibits the looting of civilian property during wartime, they are determined to fight for what they feel is rightfully theirs.
As you can imagine this story in both periods throws up some complex issues both personal and international for the two women. Keeping the focus on the two females Sophie and Liv this is an absorbing tale that you will have to read to find out just what does happen to the painting.

This is a great read and will appeal to many readers, not just Jojo Moyes fan base as it covers different genres.
Personally I am certainly looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Jojo Moyes latest novel as soon as possible.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nat, 3 Jan 2013
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We thought this was going to be a historical romance at first glance, but in actual fact it is a poignant amazing page turner, which is brilliantly written. you feel everything these remarkable women experience. It is heartwarming and I literally could not stop reading this Jojo Moyes has excelled again.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started off brilliant, 16 Dec 2012
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This review is from: The Girl You Left Behind (Kindle Edition)
A good book with a really good concept and interesting story running through it.
I thought the first half the book was much stronger however, I couldn't put it down. Didn't have the same connection with the second half however and was a bit bored by the end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Totally hooked..., 14 Aug 2014
By 
J. Mcglynn - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Girl You Left Behind (Kindle Edition)
This was my second Jojo Moyes book and she is fast becoming one of my 'must read' authors. From the word go I was utterly hooked on this book.

The first half is set in the time of the First World War, 1916, in a small provincial French village and tells the story of Sophie Lefevre and her family as they run the village's hotel, Le Coq Rouge . Sophie's husband, Edouard is an artist, and he is away fighting for the French army as is her sister Helene's husband. When a new German Kommandant takes over the division in the village, he begins to insist that the two sisters cook for the occupying German soldiers, and in turn he becomes particularly attached to a painting Edouard made of Sophie which hangs in the inn. On top of this, people in the village begin to treat Sophie with suspicion as she is 'fraternising' with the enemy...and Sophie decides to risk all in an attempt to save Edouard from the front line.

The second half fast forwards to the present day, when we meet Liv Halstead, a widow, who is trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, David, four years previously. The portrait of Sophie, is now in the possession of Liv although she has no idea of its history. Liv's life is turned upside once again when the Lefevre enlist the help of a specialist company to trace the portrait and reclaim it from Liv, stating that it was looted during the war and therefore must be returned to them under current laws. Liv refuses to give the painting up and the case goes to court, where we learn more of the mystery behind Sophie's life.

I adored the first half of this book, Sophie's character is utterly fascinating and I do wish that Jojo Moyes had concentrated a little more on this part of the story; to be honest, I would have loved the whole book to have been from her perspective! Moyes really captures life in the French village during this horrific time and the ways that the French people scored little victories against the occupying German forces. The second half was a little slower, and I found Liv to be quite frustrating but I do think that the way Moyes entwined the two women's lives was very clever and, the twist at the end was brilliantly done, I love happy ending stories especially when I don't see them coming!

I see it as a more condensed version of something Kate Morton might write, I devoured it in three days, but it has stuck with me for much longer than that! I would definitely recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars rather dull, I'm afraid..., 19 July 2012
By 
L. Bretherton "dempie" (Tiverton, Devon) - See all my reviews
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I found this book a real slog to get through.

I loved Me before You , but this book is very different. Set during the First World War in France, it centres around Sophie, whose husband, Edward has gone to war. Ed is a painter, who has studied with Matisse, and produced a very fine portrait of Sophie, which is admired by the German Kommandant. And so on. While the story is painstaking in its accuracy and period detail, I found it fairly boring.

I kept waiting for the 'modern' story to start. When it did, it's all about Liv, a widow who lives in a flash glass house by the Thames, where the portrait is hanging. But .... Ed's family want it back and so a long and very very dull legal case ensues. Of course Liv is having a 'thing' with the lawyer in charge of Ed's family's claim to the painting, which makes it a tad awkward.

There is a 'quirky' character, Mo, with regulation 'spiky hair' who calls a spade a spade.

Overall, the book is OK, and would be fine for a holiday read, but I didn't look forward to reading it every night. Sorry.
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