I am one to judge a book by its cover. Looks like the book is about historical fiction? Then I definitely don’t want to read it. But I recently fell in love with Jojo Moyes after reading Me Before You, so when I quickly picked up another one of her books from the library, The Girl You Left Behind, and realized that the book started off in 1916, I wondered, what did I get myself into?
What I got myself into was a fantastic book. The Girl You Left Behind is a story about a woman, Sophie, whose husband – a painter – is fighting in the war. She runs an inn in her town, and after the Kommandant lays eyes on a painting of Sophie by her husband, he becomes obsessed, insisting the Germans dine nightly at her inn. Sophie has to learn how to navigate the Kommandant, and the fellow townspeople who despised what the Germans have done to their town. Weaved in throughout the book is a story set in current day, where the this painting of Sophie hangs in the home of a young widow. As a battle begins about the value of the painting, the story of the painting – and how it ended up in this young woman’s hands – is told.
I absolutely loved this book and found it to be quite the page turner. I couldn’t wait to read how Sophie was going to handle the Kommandant, and while I didn’t always agree with some of her decisions, I felt that her actions would be great discussion for a book club. The present day storyline didn’t feel out of place, and I liked how it kept coming back to the history of the painting, weaving the two stories together. Finally, as someone who doesn’t know a ton about WWI, I enjoyed reading what happened in France during this time. My friend Abby said it best – books with history sprinkled throughout is a lot easier and more enjoyable to read.
Synopsis from Amazon:
Another New York Times bestseller by the author of Me Before You, After You, and One Plus One—a spellbinding story of two women united in their fight for what they love most.
Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts.
Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.
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