The Girl You Left Behind – JoJo Moyes
This is the first Jojo Moyes book I’ve read and it won’t be the last. I thought a couple of things that were wrong when I first saw this, one that it was the sequel to Me Before You because seriously, all her covers look the same and that it was the sort of book your mum takes on holiday to read. You know the one, an unimaginative thirty something singleton meets attractive man, do they like him, don’t they like him, things start to get heated, he does something stupid, doomed to singleton status forever, he redeems himself, he’s forgiven, they get together, the end. I was pleasantly surprised to find that neither of those things were true (mostly because I haven’t read Me Before You so it would have been a bit awkward and also because I find those kinds of books to be really unimaginative.
Here’s the blurb. 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…
Essentially this is about a painting.
It starts off in 1917, in occupied France, the painting’s subject, Sophie, is trying to keep her, her sister, her sister’s kids and her younger brother’s lives together even though they’ve lost pretty much everyone that they care about through war and the Germans have literally invaded their lives. Part one ends far too soon and the setting changes to modern day London where Sophie’s portrait now hangs on the wall of widow Liv’s house.
I’ll be honest, I enjoyed part one much more than part two. Sophie was an amazing character and I found occupied France and her courage much more interesting than London and Liv’s drama. I spent the whole second half of the book frantically searching for mention of Sophie and what happens to her. The second half wasn’t dull or anything, I just didn’t find that I connected with Liv as much.
Part two was fast paced and packed with just as much an emotional punch as the first part. I loved the character of Mo, I thought she was great, also the romance aspect of the second half wasn’t nearly as frustrating as I had initially thought it would be. And I enjoyed that Paul called himself out on his own douchebaggery.
All in all, this book is thoroughly enjoyable and there is a reason JoJo Moyes is topping best sellers lists. This is going to be the sort of thing I start trying to convince my mum to take away with her next time she plans a holiday.