140 of 143 people found the following review helpful
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.
121 of 133 people found the following review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2014
I have read "Me before You" and "The last letter from your lover" and found them both to be fantastic reads. I had just finished reading "The One PLus One" and was so aghast at having finished yet another brilliant book, I was suffering JoJo Moyes withdrawal symptoms. So on the assumption that if three of her books had been so brilliant and absorbing, then it must continue into all her books. Hence my buying this one.
Wrong. I probably won't finish this. I have been struggling through it, hoping it will warm up a bit and become a bit more engaging but I got to be honest, I am finding it really boring, and reading it is a bit of a chore. Looking at the other reviews I have surmised that it only gets more boring as you read further into the book, and frankly, life's too short to be finishing books I don't enjoy just for the sake of finishing them.
So I think I am going to throw in the towel and admit defeat. Sorry Jo Jo.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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'.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2012
This is the first novel that I have read by author Jojo Moyes. I am sorry to say that overall I was very disappointed. The premise - "two women separated by a century, united in their determination to fight for what they love most, whatever the cost" - intrigued me and on beginning the book I was immediately drawn into the life and story of Sophie Lefevre. She is a strong character, easy to relate to and easy to care about. Forced into an impossible situation in war-torn France she remains a likeable protagonist despite the actions she chooses to take. For the first hundred pages, I loved this book.
However, the story then leaps into present day London and the life of Liv Halston. Despite having also suffered heartbreaking loss Liv is an empty character, hard to empathise with. Ultimately, I just didn't care enough about her. For the next four hundred pages, the novel jumps back and forth between Sophie in 1916 and Liv in 2006.
The link between the two women - a painting - is not strong enough to integrate the lives of Sophie and Liv. The style of the writing changes so dramatically between the two stories that it is like trying to read two different books simultaneously. Perhaps writing two books instead of one would have been a better plan for Moyes - Sophie's story is strong enough to stand alone and had the writer chosen not to include Liv's story I would have loved this book with a full five stars. That's a shame.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2013
Separated by almost a hundred years this is a dual time frame novel about devotion, hardship and fighting for the thing you love most. Part one revolves around Sophie and her sister Helene in Occupied France during World War 1 and their struggle to survive the harsh winter, the lack of food and the German oppression.
When Sophie and her sister Helene are forced to serve German soldiers their evening meals in their bar the Kommandant takes an instant like to Sophie and her painting. Unfortunately and through no fault of their own Sophie and Helene are faced with the town's disapproval and eventually Sophie is faced with an impossible decision and the consequences of sleeping with the enemy and we're left on a cliffhanger.
In part two we're introduced to Liv, widowed, lonely and up to her eyes in debt she risks everything to keep the painting she adores, the painting of The Girl You Left Behind, allegedly stolen during war time and subject to laws of restitution.
I was hooked, completely drawn in; I wanted to find out what happens to Sophie, did she ever find Edouard? I hoped and hoped and that they would find the evidence they needed to for Liv to have legal title to the painting so much so I just had to keep reading - a real page turner with such a moral dilemma which raises the question - what would you do in Liv's and Sophie's position?
Although it's just a quote from a fiction novel...these are wise words, but so true:
"It's just stuff...The only thing that matters is people...All that really matters is who you love."
Although it didn't make me cry like 'Me Before You' did, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend if you're a fan of Jojo Moyes or if you enjoyed The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I chose to read this, purely because I absolutely loved her last book; Me before you. This book put Moyes on the map for me and geared my decision on choosing this as a read.
Our heart in this story is 2 dual narratives, one is Sophie Lefevre who lives in a small village in 1916 France, where the Germans are currently occupying. Times are hard and while her artist husband Edouard is out at war, her and her sister Helene are struggling in running the local Inn. The Germans soon come a knocking and 1 in particular takes an interest in Sophie and the portrait her husband painted of her apptly named "The Girl you left behind". Being forced to cook for the soldiers and having this man take this much interest in her while missing her husband so much grates on her but what can she do?
Our second narrative is that of Liv Halston, a young woman who lives in present day and is coming to terms with the death of her husband David. The painting that once occupied Sophie Lefevre's home in the 1910's now hangs up in Liv's home, a gift from her David. Oblivious to the rich history and story behind the piece now in her possession, Liv has become attached to the piece as a link to her husband and sees it as priceless.
However, the descendants of Sophie Lefevre have now traced back the painting to Liv's home and wish it back insinuating it was once stolen by the very Germans that occupied the French village of their ancestor and that they should rightfully have it back. The piece clearly means a lot to Liv and she is not so easily going to give it up. What we come to have portrayed is Sophie's story to Liv and how they both become one.
Cleverly woven together we see the mix of both women, their loss, strength, fears and love come to a head when the truth of what happened to Sophie is revealed.
Beautifully written just as Me before you but with a lot more waffle, slow parts which brought the whole book down and a little lacking in page turning moments nearer the end, it was just not in the same league as Me before you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The story starts in a small town in war-torn France when Sophie attempts to outwit the local German Kommandant, a man who will have a large say in her destiny. She misses her husband who is away fighting and when she and her family are forced to serve the Germans with food every night in her small hotel, her emotions are stretched as the Kommandant becomes obsessed with a painting done by her husband of a young Sophie.
The first part is left on a cliffhanger and we are then moved forward to the present time and find that the same painting is now hanging in the bedroom of Liv, who's deceased husband bought it for her as he thought the girl in the painting looked like her.
Unfortunately, this is where my interest started to wane. I loved the first part set in WWI and, even though the story goes back and forth, I did not enjoy it as much, somehow I could not warm to Liv and I found myself rushing through the story to read about what happened to Sophie.
Overall, I did like the storyline, I thought some of the characters were memorable, but I just wish that the first part had been longer and the second part had been shorter!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2013
After reading, crying and laughing at "Me before you", I couldn't wait to read this one.
It's almost as if its by a different person - the dull and unexciting story about a painting that was allegedly stolen in the war and now in the middle of a court battle between its rightful owners and a crazy depressing woman who doesn't want to give it up. All the way through the book I could yell, "It's just a painting!"
I have never rooted against a lead character so much, she's a sad widow who is willing to give up everything for a painting - what a moron.
I'm in agony trying to finish this book, I suggest you don't start it!
On the plus side, the flashbacks to the war are quite inspiring and Sophie is a wonderful character - however, the majority of the book relates to the boring widow.