The Girl You Left Behind

17572903Title: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: Jojo Moyes
Source: from publisher for SheReads book club
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: This book was so well written and so intriguing that I couldn’t put it down, even at the end of Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon.

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time. Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened… (from Goodreads)

Jojo Moyes’ The Girl You Left Behind was a perfect book club choice. Both protagonists are complex women forced to make some very thought-provoking decisions. As with the last book club selection, I wasn’t always sure what I thought the protagonists should do. I think this is one way in which to be a truly brilliant writer. If a character is having a hard time making a decision and I want to shake her because the right choice is so obvious, that’s just frustrating. When an author like Jojo manages to make me uncertain as well, the story seems more real and the characters become much more relatable.

Despite starting reading around 3 or 4 in the morning, I constantly wanted to know what the characters were going to do and what was going to happen next. The details of both the WWI and the modern day settings were so vivid, I was drawn right in. Some of the scenes, including the opening, are so dramatic and so fun that I immediately started imagining them happening in a movie. Although I loved both Sophie and Liv, Sophie was by far my favorite. She’s brave, intelligent, and captivating. The description of her experience of the resistance movement in France was very well done, with a fascinating look at both the good and the bad of how people treated each other. And finding out the surprising ending of her story… Well, lets just say it was well worth the wait.

Amazon|Goodreads

24 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

24 responses to “The Girl You Left Behind

  1. I’m excited about this book because I loved the author’s last one. I’m glad to see you liked it so much.

  2. Daystarz Books

    I loved this book too!

  3. I actually had a super tough time with this one. I looooooved Sophie’s story, but Liv just rubbed me the wrong way. No matter what the actual origin of the painting, it really bugged me that Liv believed that even if it was stolen property, since she purchased it, she had a right to keep it.

    If you purchased a stolen car, not knowing it was stolen of course, you wouldn’t be able to keep it. So why should Liv believe that if her painting was stolen it would still be rightfully hers? That opinion just made me dislike Liv so much!

    • Ah, that’s too bad! I’m not sure how I feel about it. Certainly if it was something that had just been stolen she should give it back but given that it had been hundreds of years and Liv’s acquisition was in good faith. And while I don’t know how often this is the case in real life, in the book, it seemed ,like the family was going to win on the bases of sympathy rather than proof, which really shouldn’t be the case. It did bother me that she was willing to risk relationships to keep an object though, even one which had sentimental value.

      • Yeah but even though the family might have wanted it for money, it’s not Liv’s to make that decision (if it was stolen). No matter what, when purchased in good faith, if it was a stolen product, it’s not yours. If the painting was stolen, there’s no reason for Liv to be in trouble of course and she should be compensated for her loss, but it’s not hers.

        While this isn’t 100 years ago, think about the Holocaust. Is it right to keep a house/painting/jewelry that was taken away from Jews who were sent to die? Even if you purchase it in good faith not knowing? What about the people who lost it? How is that morally right?

        That’s where I had an issue with Liv. No matter what theo origin of the painting, in her eyes, even if it was stolen, Liv believed it was rightfully hers. Stolen property is not hers, it belongs to the original owners or heirs. That’s where my issue was.

      • You’re right 🙂 Obviously, if someone has the opportunity to do something to restore even a tiny bit of the damage done by the holocaust, they should do it, so I would say Liv is morally obligated to return the painting if it was stolen. As long as she is compensated the full value of the painting, I don’t have a problem with her being legally required to return it as well. The possibility that she’ll be required by law to return it for less than it’s full value when she didn’t do anything wrong made it easier for me to see her side of it, since in her position, that would bother me. But you’re right, that the position she seems to be taking is just that it’s hers and she’s not going to give it back for any amount of money. So while I could understand her feelings and wasn’t bothered by her character while reading, I think perhaps I should have been because you’re right – that’s not a very nice position for her to take!

      • Thank you for being so openminded to see if the way I saw it. I feel so strongly about this one, that I wasn’t sure how it comes off. But I just can’t get past her belief originally – everything else doesn’t matter. 🙂

      • Absolutely! I may not have felt the same way you did when reading the book, but I think you’re completely right that Liv should have acted differently. I think, as always seems to be the case, that the SheReads group did a great job picking this book. It’s always fun when a group read can spark interesting discussions about complex issues 🙂

  4. I enjoyed reading your review. I liked this book a lot.

  5. Everyone is raving about Moyes’s new title! I can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on a copy. Me Before You was a favorite this year.

    • After reading this one, I want to get my hands on a copy of Me Before You! Moyes seems like a good enough author, that I wouldn’t be surprised if I love everything she writes 🙂

  6. I just read another review of this which raved about it as you have. Not sure about Liv’s rights to the painting, I guess I’d have to read it to truly have an opinion, but as a whole it sounds so good, and what you’ve said about the ending sounds pretty awesome. Perhaps more thrilling than I expected.

    • It could definitely make for some interesting book club discussions! I was surprised by how much I wanted to know what happened next. It was definitely a page-turner 🙂

  7. I really want to read Me Before You, so I’m definitely interested in this author. I’m glad this book was an excellent read – I hope to check it out soon. I haven’t read something contemporary/historical based in awhile and this sounds like a good pick! Great review!

  8. I love Jojo Moyes, she always writes a real page turner. If you ahven’t read Me Before You yet, do, it is her best, but have plenty of hankies at the ready.

    • I haven’t read any of her other books, but Me Before You is definitely going on my to-read list! I’ve heard that it’s pretty different, but she seems like such a good author, I expect to enjoy pretty much anything she writes 🙂

  9. What an insightful review! Especially like your comments about the choices characters make and the effect their uncertainty has on you, the reader. Very nicely said.

    • Thank you 🙂 I love when an author is able to give a character really interesting decisions to make, because I think real life is like that. In a lot of books, the obviousness (to me) of the choice a character should make can both frustrate me and make me feel less immersed in the story.

  10. Pingback: The Last Camellia | Doing Dewey

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