Connie A Thompson

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

9780670026616_GirlYouLeftB_JKF.inddTwo  women — two different centuries — and yet, the women are kindred spirits.

Be prepared that once you pick up this book, life as you know it will temporarily cease. Laundry will pile up, dishes will need to be washed, beds will go unmade, and you’ll be reaching for the phone to order pizza rather than cooking because you’ll need to finish this story. You’ll need to know what happens to Sophie and her contemporary counterpart, Liv.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is the October She Reads selection. Join us there this month for giveaways and chats about the book and with the author.

Sophie has left Paris for home to help her sister run the family business, an inn and a restaurant. Together they work and care for the children while their husbands fight on the front during World War I. Their little town is now occupied by the Germans and the German Kommandant has decided that he and his men will take their meals at the family’s inn.

Liv Halston lives in London, in a distinctive, architectural glass wonder designed and built by her late husband. There is nothing warm and inviting about her home except for the painting of a young woman, vibrant and beautiful. They found the painting on their honeymoon. He bought it off the street as a gift for his bride, who was mesmerized by the image. Liv often wonders who the woman was? What was behind her smile? Now, the woman reminds her of who she used to be.

Although under scrutiny, Sophie manages to take meager portions, which she uses to feed the children. She and the Kommandant begin an unlikely friendship. She sees the man he is beneath the German façade. He sees her as the lovely woman of the painting rather than the war-ravaged person she sees in the mirror. For Sophie, the painting reminds her of when she first fell in love with her beloved husband, who captured her feelings of love for him with his paintbrush.

The town believes Sophie has disgraced herself with her relationship with the German. She is sent away to a concentration camp.

100 years later, Sophie’s painting, The Girl You Left Behind, now adorns Liv’s bedroom wall. Sophie’s great-nephews lay claim to the painting. Ironically, the painting’s location would remain unknown except Paul, Liv’s new love interest knows. He works for a company that specializes in returning art to the original family, especially art that was stolen during war times. Liv proclaims the painting is hers; it is all she feels she truly has left. She can’t let Sophie go. Paul must make a choice, his profession or love?

The dual story lines eventually lead to a fabulous conclusion. Questions are answered and the true images rather than the imagined are revealed.

I love finding new authors and after reading The Girl You Left Behind, I can’t wait to read some of her other novels.

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