Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

I liked this book so very much.  It’s about art and lost love and France – all things I adore in a story. 

The story revolves around a painting – a painting titled, The Girl You Left Behind.  There are two storylines, one focuses on Sophie, the original owner of the painting, who was also the subject of the painting and married to the artist, and her life in occupied France during the First World War.  The other storyline is about Liv, the current owner of the painting, a woman living in present day London.  What connects both of these women – besides the painting – is that, they’ve both lost their husbands, and have, in a sense, been left behind.  One woman lost her husband to the war, and the other to an early death.

And here’s where I’m going to suggest that you read the novella Honeymoon in Paris before reading Girl You Left Behind.  The novella focuses on the two couples immediately after their marriage.  That will give you a better idea as to the depth of loss these women are enduring now that they’re alone.

They both loved their husbands very much and they’re both struggling to go on with their lives now that they’re alone.  One is waiting anxiously for hers to return, the other is trying to figure out how to move on with her life, knowing he’s gone forever.  Both of them cling to the painting, as a symbol of what they once had and what they long to hold onto.

But Liv’s first real attempt at dating results in her putting her painting at risk.  The man she allows into her home specializes in recovering art stolen by the Nazis, and her painting is one he’s been hired to locate.  Liv isn’t aware of the painting’s history.  Her husband bought it from a woman who was throwing it out on a street in Barcelona. 

The ensuing story is about the path the painting traveled, from Sophie to Liv, and how this painting and all that it represented affected their lives.  But also, it’s a story about surviving and figuring out when to hold on and when to let go and take a chance, even when there seems to be no hope in sight. 

This was the first book I’ve read by Jojo Moyes and I thought it was wonderful.  She writes in such a way that I could feel the anguish these characters were experiencing.  If I was the type of person who cried, I would have been bawling by the end of this book.  This story broke my heart and then put it back together again, only to break it some more.  Such a beautiful story that I would recommend to anyone who wants to read a good book. 

I received a review copy of this via NetGalley.

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