From Goodreads: 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…
In The Girl You Left Behind, two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most—whatever the cost.
This book presents a dual storyline: one set during World War I in a small, isolated French village occupied by the Germans and the other set in present-day London.
In France, Sophie Lefevre runs a hotel where the locals feel comfortable to meet and talk about life under German occupation. The German Kommandant forces her to cook dinner for him and his soldiers. She slowly develops an uneasy relationship with him and finally asks him to help her reunite with her husband, even though it might prove fatal not only to her, but also to her family.
In London, Liv Halston is grieving for her husband, who died four years ago. She cannot move on and has become alienated from most of her friends. Then she meets Paul McCafferty and feels surprisingly attracted to him. But he works for an organization that specializes in restoring lost or stolen artwork to their rightful owners and has been hired by the Lefevres to bring the painting of Sophie, which now hangs in Liv’s bedroom, back to them. Liv decides to fight for the most important possession in her life, even though she might lose everything in the process.
Moyes does a good job presenting first one character, then the other, and then starting to intertwine them. The jumps from one place to the other, from one character to the next were effortless.
What I liked most about this book was that Moyes was able to paint strong characters who had believable flaws. None of them was black or white; there was a little gray in each of them. None of them was perfect. Some decisions they made were selfless, and others were selfish. I think that is what made their stories believable for me. It is rare that I can relate to every character in a story, and even rarer that I can completely understand their reasoning and sympathize with it. I also liked the subtle parallels between the two women’s lives. The more you think about them, the more they grow. In fact, I think there is an instance where two characters say the same thing. But I had already returned the book to the library before I could confirm that.
The reason I didn’t give this book five smileys was because the ending seemed a bit fast and neat. There were too many coincidences that seemed just a little too forced.
Next I will be reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, because it was mentioned in connection with a review for The Girl You Left Behind.