From the extremely talented, creative and adept author of Me Before You comes a divergent and fresh novel The Girl You Left Behind.
I absolutely adore JoJo Moyes and her tact for writing stories that allow me to celebrate life in all its glory. So when I came across a book written by her with a dualist storyline of two extremely different personas from distinct worlds, I was intrigued as to how she went about creating it.
When I read the first page, I was standing by the porthole of a low-hanging, grim carriage on the Bakerloo line, and just as the dusty wind flew in and brushed on my face, I was hoping eagerly that this story would be nothing like what I’ve read before – and I wasn’t disappointment.
The Girl You Left Behind is apprised of the story of two strong-willed and passionate women; only the recipient of their passion differs. The first part of the novel tells the tale of Sophie Lefèvre who is waiting for the return of her husband Edouard while running a small-town hotel, Le Croq Rouge situated in St Péronne in 1916 German-occupied France. What initiates as a dubious encounter with the German commandant – Herr Kommandant – caused by the suspect of provisioning a pig, ends up becoming a battle against Herr Kommandant’s obsession with a painting, and quite possibly Sophie, rattling her already distasteful life around. At a certain point Sophie is left in a limbo. Surrounded by poverty and grief-stricken neighbours, the brutality of war, fragile relationships in the face of destruction as well as desperation for when she’ll be able to see the love of her life again, she has to make a decision that ends up painting a blurred picture of what eventually happens to her and Eduoard.
Moyes carves a beautiful depiction of Sophie as a headstrong, kind and iron-willed woman, who, despite being devoted to her husband, doesn’t refrain from making painful choices in order to rebuild her life.
We then move onto Part 2 of the novel where we delve into the world of Liv Halston – a struggling copywriter and widow living in the heart of London 90 years later. When Liv collides into Paul McCaffrey on a crisp winter evening, her previously meagre existence patterned with difficulties gradually seems to revive. However, destiny takes another toll on Liv’s journey, as well as on their newly-flourishing relationship, when an antique painting of a girl stolen from the Lefèvre family during wartime finds itself in the modern architectural construction of Liv’s house (designed by her late-husband David).
This story was an absolutely delight to read! From the moment I picked it up I just couldn’t put it back down again!
Moyes allows her readers to enjoy a wonderful story that begins in the puny streets of St Péronne and traverses to the bustling energy of contemporary London. Moyes shows us that love is the most important thing in every era. Moyes teaches her readers about the importance of fighting – for love, honour and what you believe is right. These two women; Sophie and Liv are the epitome of strong-minded women who believe in themselves and they are a reflection of the warrior that lives within all of us, a warrior that isn’t afraid to come to the fore when what we love is threatened.
As a literary critic, once again I cannot stop praising Moyes for her writing flare. She never flounders in leaving me open-mouthed at her ability to create such wonderful story-worlds that I just don’t want to leave. I absolutely love Moyes and The Girl You Left Behind is in my ‘favourites’ mental file for sure!
For those of you who want to read something different – a rich combination of historical literature, fiction and romance – then I highly recommend this novel. And for those who want to learn how to write, how to tell stories in an artistic manner and how to leave their readers flabbergasted, then JoJo Moyes is the author to read! I recommend (almost) everything written by her and this is not me being biased; this is me appreciating high-quality literature when I see it.
Until next week,