Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

This being the second book I've read by Jojo Moyes, The Girl You Left Behind was given high hopes. Thankfully Moyes did not disappoint with her latest. Many who have read and loved Me Before You will expect The Girl You Left Behind to blow them away equally. Let me begin by saying that will not be the case here. Yes The Girl You Left Behind is a great read, but it's not the tear-jerker that is Me Before You. 

The Girl You Left Behind begins in St. Peronne, during October of 1916. Those familiar with history will notice that this is during the time when Northern France was invaded by Germans. The small village of St. Peronne is where Sophie meets Herr Kommandat. He's the law of the land so to speak in this town. He can take what he wants, offer what he wants, kill whomever he wants, and save anyone he wants.

Sophie runs a hotel that she's inherited after the death of her father. Herr Kommandat comes to this hotel in search of somewhere to feed his men. He is then entranced with the woman in the painting. Sophie tells Herr Kommandat that the portrait is of her, drawn by her husband. It is all she has left, besides his letters, to remember him while he is fighting in the war. Sophie insists that someday she will be the girl in the portrait again. She'll be the girl her husband left behind.

Eventually Herr Kommandat and Sophie have an odd sort of relationship. I think he respects her fearless nature. She's appreciative of the things he can do for her. The rations have taken a toll on her family so she appears to be cavorting with the enemy. But instead, she is really hoping he will help her to free her husband.

Sophie's story is the real highlight of this novel. Her character has such strength and resilience that she's the type of character readers can really stand behind. The harsh realities of war makes her storyline most interesting coupled with Jojo Moyes great character development. I could have easily read about Sophie and her harrowing journey across war-torn Europe.

In the second half of the book we are introduced to Olivia(Liv) Halston. Liv currently is in possession of the Sophie's portrait aptly named The Girl You Left Behind. It is one of the last things Liv finds comfort in as she's coping with the death of her husband David. The only catch is that her husband has been dead four years and it seems been in a state of pause. She doesn't want to see old friends, entertain the idea of dating again, or really escape the depressing world she's created for her self. She's the exact opposite of Sophie. 

There are two seperate storylines in this novel but it's obvious that the first Sophie's storyline is strongest. Her's is most engaging and interesting. Even the trial was too quick it seemed... or... just not suspenseful enough the way most trials are. This is the only flaw I can find with The Girl You Left Behind. I didn't find Liv very inspiring. I do find the love story's in the background of each story to be sufficient for those who like their heart strings tugged. I found the Liv's love life to be forced for the sake of the story and relied on fate way too much.

The Girl You Left Behind does bring to light the issue of priceless family heirlooms that were confiscated from the homes of people never to be returned again. Moments in history where people had to part with items that may have seemingly been so important begs the reader to ask themselves what's really important? Items or people? Each woman has to deal with what they can or can't live without and I think they both choose wisely. "The only thing that matters is people"

Overall, Jojo Moyes' The Girl You Left Behind is still a great novel. When I wasn't reading it I was counting down the minutes until I'd be able to read it again. Like I noted previously, in my opinion it is not the tear-jerker that was Me Before You for anyone who's basing their decision to read, or not read, on that fact alone. Jojo Moyes has definitely found her way on to the list of author's I will read whenever they decide to grace the world with another story. This novel comes highly recommended for her fans as well as lover's of women's fiction with a little history thrown in for good measure.  ****

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