The book starts off with Sophie dreaming of food. It is 1916, France is under German occupation and Sophie, like the rest of France,have hardly anything to eat. Food and supplies are scarce and at the mercy of the Germans. Sophie and her sister Helene, have been trying their best to feed their children and kid brother, whatever they manage to forage, but life is not easy, to say the least. Sophie ends up making some tough choices which help her keep the children fed, but also ends up earning the wrath of her village people.
Sophie’s husband, Edouard Lefevre, is an artist who has gone to fight at the front. They adore each other, and with him gone, all she has of him is a picture he painted of hers. That picture catches the eye of the German Kommandant. Sophie is put in a horrible position of deciding how far she would go in order to be able to be back with her husband. How far would she go for love?
Years later, in present day Britain, that picture of Sophie, ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ is with Liv Halston. A young widow, whose husband, David, bought her that picture because it reminded him of her. With David gone, the picture has a lot of emotional value for Liv, who has been unable to move on from her husband’s memory, even 4 years after his death. All her friends’ efforts to make Liv move on, has been of no use.
After four years of living with David’s memories, Liv meets Paul, with whom she is finally able to connect. Liv finally manages to come close to some happiness, when it is snatched away from her again. Paul is a detective who traces old portraits which had been stolen from their original owners, and ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ is one such portrait. The Lefevre family had been trying to locate this portrait for sentimental reasons. Liv, of course, has her own sentimental reasons to hold on to it as well. Both parties refuse to budge, and the case reaches the court. Not only does Liv have a lot to lose, just how much, she realizes as the case unfolds, she is also fighting what she thinks of as Paul’s betrayal.
It was a beautiful read. Love so strong that it is worth fighting for. Both Sophie and Liv, separated by almost a century, between themselves, are fighting for their loves, for what they believe in. Both stand to lose everything they have, but both decide that it is worth fighting for. It was a book that takes you through emotions, through hardships and tough times. It pulls at your heartstrings, makes you wish and wish that a magic wand would sort things out – for both women. I really liked the way the picture touched and affected people across time. Although I have to say, in some ways, Liv just felt stubborn. Sophie had a life and death situation, which was well worth fighting for. Liv, to me, possibly the practical me, felt that she was fighting for something which didn’t resonate as much. But that might just be me. Even so, it was a great read.
A beautifully narrated story, one which will keep engrossed till the very end. A page turner. I would rate it a 4/5.
About the Author
Jojo Moyes is a British novelist. Moyes studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full-time novelist.