139 of 142 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Girl You Left Behind (Paperback)
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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.