Rummanah Aasi
  Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming of the many authors that is constantly checked out at my library. Although she has been writing for quite some time, just recently she has appeared in the spotlight in the United States. I think what draws readers to her books are the wonderful relationships that she creates between her characters and the extra care she gives to her female protagonists. Though I didn't enjoy The Girl You Left Behind as much as I did Me Before You, I thought it was a decent read.

Description: In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.
  Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened.

Review: The title of Moyes' latest book is the name of a fictional painting that serves as catalyst in linking two loves stories, one set in occupied France during World War I, the other in 21st-century London. In occupied France, Sophie is helping the family while her husband, an artist who studied with Matisse, is off fighting. I liked Sophie right away and admired her tenacity in standing up to the German occupiers and to her suspicious neighbors who believe she is a German sympathizer. Sophie's vibrant personality draws the interest of the new German kommandant in the village. It turns out that the German kommandant is also an art lover and notices the portrait of Sophie, drawn by her husband, which captures her essence and her husband's adoration. Arranging to dine regularly at Sophie's inn with his men, the German kommandant begins a cat-and-mouse courtship trying to lure Sophie in by providing her more food for her family and security, but Sophie resists. In what could be described as emotional blackmail, Sophie learns that her husband is being held in a particularly harsh "reprisal" camp and she must decide what will sacrifice for his freedom: "The Girl You Left Behind" or herself.
  Jumping to 2006, we are faced with a different moral puzzle also entangled in a relationship. Liv is a young widow who has been struggling financially and emotionally since her husband David's sudden death. In an attempt to move on, she meets Paul in a bar after her purse is stolen. The two have chemistry and he is the first man she's been drawn to since she was widowed. They spend time together and their relationship blooms but things turn tumultuous when Paul notices that the "Girl You Left Behind" portrait on Liv's wall and rushes away with no explanation. There is no doubt that Paul is as smitten as Liv, but his career is finding and returning stolen art to the rightful owners specifically Liv's portrait is what threatens them apart. Liv and Paul soon find themselves on opposite sides of a legal battle.
  My issue with this book lies with the under-developed and the off-pace of the story lines. While I found Sophie's story heartbreaking in the depictions of a squalled occupied France and was drawn to the details of this story, I found it to be slow. I couldn't tell if the German kommandant was actually drawn to Sophie as a person or how she was represented in the portrait. I would have liked to have a bit more moments shared between Sophie and her husband which would give the portrait a more prominent role.
 Interestingly enough I found Liv's story line had a better pace and I was able to support the romance between Liv and Paul, who were adorable together, the legal battle went on much longer than needed. I grew restless towards the end and found myself skimming some sections just to see what would happen to Liv and Paul's relationship.
  If you are looking for a book that has a bit more emotional intensity, I would suggest reading Moyes' Me Before You instead of this book. If you're interested in art and World War I history without having your heart ripped out, you might enjoy this one a bit more.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusion to rape, and sexual situations. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, The Eight by Katherine Neville
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I tend to gravitate toward the more emotionally intense reads Rummanah, so I think I would like prefer his other book to this one. It's always a touch frustrating to have to skim sections just to get to the parts that have you really interested:) I do like the sound of Liv and Paul's relationship though, I have a feeling I'd be reading at warp speed to get back to their sections!

  2. Too bad this wasn't quite as good as you hoped. There are so many of these stories set in WW2. I haven't seen many set in WW1.

  3. Hm... I can see the problems you had with this one. Darn. Still, I do love art and I hate to cry, but darn it I want more in a book. Oh I might have to try both books. LOL

  4. I think just for the fact that I don't enjoy having my heart ripped out, I'd prefer this one, lol! Though it does seem to not have the right balance in the story. Too bad this one didn't work as well as the first novel did but it does sound like a fairly interesting plot.
    I like your honest review. As always it is appreciated.

  5. Candace Says:

    I'm not sure this is one I could have patience for, even though it does sound interesting. I've had so much trouble with deeper books lately it seems! I think it's because I'm always feeling so rushed. :(

  6. This one sounds like it has a powerhouse setup, but somewhere along the line, it fell a little flat. That's always frustrating, and I'm not sure I'd be able to deal with that. Lovely honest review though, Rummanah!

  7. I like more emotionally intense reads so I'll probably pass on this one, Rummanah. It sounds kind of long as well and I just don't have the patience for those types of books right now.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I still need to read Me Before You! I think the premise sounds amazing in this book, and I'd probably be very invested in Liv and Paul's story, though it sounds like the legal battle is something I'd also want to page through. I think I'll take your suggestion and read Me Before You first. Lovely review!

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