The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes; published 2012 by Penguin Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Opening line: “I was dreaming of food.”
During World War I in France, Sophie Lefevre is running her family’s inn and restaurant while her husband, the painter Edouard Lefevre, is fighting at the front. Her town is occupied by the Germans, and the Kommandant has decided that Sophie’s inn will serve the officers. On one hand, this means Sophie and her family can put off starvation by eating the scraps from their meals; on the other hand, the town begins to resent her special treatment. What makes it worse is that the Kommandant finds a beautiful picture of Sophie painted by her husband, and from then on looks at Sophie in a new way. When Sophie finds out that Edouard has been interned in one of the worst prison camps, she will do whatever the Kommandant wants to secure Edouard’s freedom.
In the present day, Liv Halston is grieving her husband David’s sudden death. Finally deciding that it’s time to move on, she starts dating Paul McCafferty. Paul is a lawyer working on behalf of people whose art was stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Paul discovers the portrait of Sophie Lefevre in Liv’s bedroom; it had been a gift from David on their honeymoon. Suddenly, Paul and Liv are on opposite sides of a legal battle, both trying to figure out what exactly happened to Sophie and whether or not the portrait was really stolen.
This was another quick, satisfying read. I have to admit, though, that I was more enticed by Sophie’s story than by Liv’s. I did feel at times that I was putting up with reading Liv’s story just so I could find out what happened to Sophie. As a character, Sophie is just so complex. She’s full of gumption (my favorite quality!) and faces a terrifying ethical dilemma. Her situation forces the reader to reflect: what would I have done in her situation? Probably the same thing.
This was my first experience with Jojo Moyes’s books, even though I’ve heard rave reviews from other bloggers. I’m definitely looking forward to reading her others!
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