The happy surprises just keep coming from She Reads...this month they have selected the latest from Jojo Moyes, "The Girl You Left Behind". As everyone is probably aware, this is the same author that brought us the incredible (and probably one my favorite reads of the year) "Me Before You". Once I finished that book, I immediately knew I wanted to read everything she touched. So this was perfect timing.
Synopsis: In the midst of WWI in France, Edouard Lefevre, an up-and-coming artist, leaves his young wife Sophie to fight against the Germans. In the hotel that Sophie and her sister run hangs Sophie's portrait that Edouard has painted. When a German troop occupies their small town, its Kommandant becomes obsessed with Sophie and the painting. While it is never a safe bet to be on any German's radar, Sophie decides to risk everything in order to see her husband again.
Fast forward to modern day London. Liv Halston's talented young architect husband gives her a wedding gift...the painting of Sophie, a bargain obtained from a woman clearing out her late mother's apartment. Not long after, Liv's husband suddenly dies, and the painting is the anchor that keeps Liv from losing all touch with reality. But when the painting falls under scrutiny, and is declared to be a piece of artwork looted by the Germans during the war, Liv must put everything on the line to defend herself in court, and keep it from being taken from her. Together with the charismatic young American ex-cop that she has just met, she must explore the history of the painting, tracing back exactly how it got from Sophie's possession to hers. She finds herself wondering if she will have anything left after the fight. Will she have any friends? A house? Her painting and last memento from her husband? Any chance for love again?
My thoughts: I'll be honest. For the first hundred pages or so, when we are learning about Sophie, I could barely drag myself through. It took me two weeks to read those hundred pages. It was strange, because I love wartime stories. But I just could not engage. But suddenly, when the narrative switched to Liv, my interest and reading pace sprung to life. Now THAT was the Jojo Moyes I remembered!
Liv's life, her personality, her chemistry with the handsome American, and her friendship with the goth girl that crashes at her house...it was charming and alluring. Once Liv began researching the painting and Sophie's history, that part of the story became much more interesting. (Just so you know, it seems in some reviews, readers had the opposite reaction. I think the most important point here is that the two stories were so completely different, they could have been written by two separate people.)
By the end of the story, I had nearly forgotten my frustration and lack of interest earlier, and was completely drawn into the story. The ending was pretty predictable, but it was heart-warming, and I didn't mind.
Definitely, this was not "Me Before You", but a worthy read.
4 out of 5 stars