Profoundly moving

2012-11-28 00:00


The Girl You Left Behind

Jojo Moyes

Penguin Books


I’M a sucker for a war drama, so I relished the opportunity to dive into The Girl You Left Behind. I was not disappointed. The way the book sucked me into the pool of words in the pages as I leapt in, felt like a sparkling crystal clear loch, with deep steady currents that pull you down deep, juxtaposed with gentle flows to float on, which I could have immersed myself in for ages.

Reminiscent of the exquisite Possession by A.S. Byatt, the book sways between then and now. Sophie Lefevre lives in occupied France during World War 1. Her husband, Edouard, is a brilliant artist who is at war. Sophie keeps a small hotel with her sister Hélène, whose husband is also at the front. Food is scarce, and they have Hélène’s children and their younger brother to care for. They live for the day they will see their husbands again. Sophie has one thing that she cherishes more than anything, a portrait Edouard did of her. It is her link to him.

The German kommandant in charge of the occupied town, sees Sophie’s portrait at the hotel and takes a fancy to it, and she decides she would give up anything to see her Edouard again.

Cut from 1916 to 2006 and meet Liv, a young penniless widow who now owns Sophie’s portrait, her most treasured possession and gift from her late husband. Four years after being widowed, she is very much alone and trying to hang onto the home her architect husband built for them. But Liv discovers that Sophie’s ancestors have laid claim to the now very valuable painting, claiming it was stolen from the family during the war. The man heading the claim against Sophie is the rather appealing Paul, an ex-detective who now does art tracing, and who stirs something she has not felt since David died.

Full of deep personal conflicts, heroism and hurt, this book was a profoundly moving read. Buy it, take a deep breath and dive in. You won’t want to get out.


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