Thursday, November 8, 2018

Jojo Moyes - The Girl You Left Behind

France, 1916. Sophie Lefevre must keep her family safe whilst her adored husband Edouard fights at the front. When she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes riven by fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait - painted by Edouard - a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision.
Almost a century later, and Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv's life upside down all over again . . .
In 'The Girl You Left Behind' two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for what they love most - whatever the cost.

Comment: Jojo Moyes apparently is a hit-or-miss author for me, I've loved some of her novels and others weren't as amazing to me. I wanted to have a positive expectation about this one, especially because the average grades are good and I can say my expectations were met.

In this dual timed story we have two main characters: Sophie, who lives through the turbulent years of the First World War, and Liv, who in contemporary times not only must deal with the loss of her husband but also the problems caused by owning a painting given to her by her beloved husband. However, the painting is the picture of Sophie, who was married to a minor french artist, Edouard Lefévre. Bt during the war, Sophie is taken and no one sees her again.
The lives of these two women are linked together because of a chance situation but as the pages unfold, we slowly discover what happened to Sophie and why Liv is now facing problems...

I really liked this one. I only stopped reading to go to sleep because I found this to be engaging, interesting, addictive. I really liked the story and the way the author planned on how to develop it.

I think one of the best features was precisely the way the story is divided. Often, in dual time plots, we have one and another alternatively played out so that the reader can follow each key moment as it happens but here, it was a little different. 
First, we have Sophie's story and then Liv's. There are one or two chapters from Sophie's perspective from then on, but it was great to be able to more easily divide what was happening. I think it was productive to be able to separate things and I actually enjoyed the book more, things were done in a way that really made sense.

Both plots were great. I tend to prefer one to the other - usually the contemporary because it's easier to be empathetic to what happens - but in this case I really liked spending time reading about both women and their challenges.
I liked Sophie because she was brave despite some mistakes she did in the name of love. Any story based on or set on war times is always heartbreaking and Sophie's is no exception, all the scenes where she was dealing with the issues of being in a war were difficult to absorb.
Liv has different problems and emotions to process. I liked her and the challenges she faced. I liked how the author introduced some subjects in Liv's life (like her mourning and the pressure of the press when a problem gets public) and how those details were dealt with.

The plot, in general, is well developed in my opinion. The sequence of events makes sense and there's a little detail in every chapter that makes things seem more important, more special.
I know some readers complained about the theme, about some plot's moves... but I think there's a good balance in what we see on the page and the emotions associated with what happens. I do think the author gave life to what each heroine was going through and did it well enough to make this a gripping story. It's not perfect but, as always, it depends a lot on perspective. For me, it worked out well.

All in all, this was a great mix of historical and fiction and a little romance. I didn't want to let go of the characters but thankfully, there's a happy ending and that made it feel even more special.
Grade: 9/10

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