By Jojo Moyes
Viking, $27.95, 369 pages
Jojo Moyes has written an astoundingly great book. If you read “Me Before You” and were enraptured, get ready to be even more enamored with her latest book, The Girl You Left Behind. Sophie and Helene are barely surviving in a small French town during the German occupation of World War I. The sisters run the local restaurant, Le Coq Rouge, and are forced to feed the German soldiers every night. A painting in the dining room by Sophie’s husband, Edouard Lefevre, called “The Girl You Left Behind”, mesmerizes the Kommandant. It is a painting of Sophie when she was full of love and life after she first met Edouard. Sophie dreams of Edouard daily; hoping he is alive on the front. Sophie decides to make the ultimate sacrifice by offering her painting to the Kommandant in return for seeing her husband.
Alternating chapters reveal Liv, a woman living in 2006 London. She is still struggling four years after the sudden death of her 38 year-old architect husband. David gave Liv “The Girl You Left Behind” for their honeymoon and it is proudly displayed in Liv’s home. Liv’s life has essentially stopped. She is unwilling to make anything different in David’s house since his death. During a chance meeting, Liv meets Paul and finally gets a shot at the possibility of a “normal” life. But the mysterious painting plays an integral role in both Sophie and Liv’s life as events unfold in this engrossing novel.
Moyes writes of love, sacrifice and loss with glaring detail. Her characters leap from the pages with the vivid writing of the author. The Girl You Left Behind is fraught with deeper meaning and readers will be thinking of the characters long after they finish the book.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff