I am a little late to the party on my book review for the month of May. Speaking of late to the party, apparently I am a little late to the party on Jojo Moyes. I have spoken about my love for the first two books she read, but because they were the same characters, I had no idea if I would enjoy other stories. Verdict is in: I did.
The Girl You Left Behind (talk about a good title huh?) is set in two different time periods, in two different countries. You have pre WWI German occupied France and modern day London to split the book into two parts. The story is ultimately about a French artist who paints a photo of his wife, Sophie, that hangs in their home. He has left home to fight on the front lines and the Germans have occupied the French village that his wife and extended family live in. The painting sparks the interest of a German Kommandant and because of the effect the painting has on him, Sophie uses it and risks everything to be with her husband and one true love again.
Fast forward to today, the young widow Liv has the portrait hanging in her home in London, as a gift from her late husband. However, it catches the eye of Paul, who brings to light the dark and passionate history of the painting. The history is the very thing that can ruin the first chance at happiness Liv has had with anyone since her husbands passing, and cause turmoil in all areas of her already uprooted life.
Now, I am not typically one to like time pieces. Honestly, I am not sure why, but I usually just have a hard time getting into them, relating, finding the visualization in my head, but surprisingly, this was not the case at all with this story. I truly enjoyed the storyline of Sophie and her family in a German occupied village of France. I suppose maybe because I have not read stories during that era before, maybe I would be more surprised to know that I do actually just enjoy them in general more than other time periods. Nevertheless, I found the story to truly be one that kept me turning the pages way beyond my bed and eager to know more.
If Sophies side of the story kept me excited, interested and begging for more, Liv’s side… fell a little flat for me. I was very surprised by this, expecting it to be the opposite. However, I felt it was not a relatable relationship between Liv and Paul and I couldn’t get invested in it. I didn’t truly care nearly even half as much about their outcome as I cared about Sophies. At times, it felt drawn out, long, and at times bland, honestly. But, I truly enjoyed Sophies story so much, as well as the strength and fearlessness of her character. Liv was determined and strong as well, but I felt her character was more forced, her sadness almost too consuming for me as a reader at times, and not in a good way, because I love me some all consuming characters.
If I could truly give the “past” portion of the book one rating, and the “present” another, I would because they felt that much different for me. But, overall, I still would recommend this book to many people, especially if you like WWI stories and time pieces, or if you have an interest in art. Moyes did a great job at really putting you in the leading ladies places, especially Sophies, or at the very least, grabbing your attention and allowing you to picture the story in your mind and question what you would do. To me, a book that makes you think almost always can be a guaranteed good read.