Rated Reads

The Girl You Left Behind

by Jojo Moyes

Rated: Moderate

During the First World War, Sophie Léfevre is trying to make do, along with everyone else in her French town, while being occupied by the Germans. Her artist husband, Édouard, is off at the front. She has one special item to remember him by: a painting of her he created early in their relationship. That painting gets the attention of the new Kommandant assigned to their town, who orders Sophie and her sister to feed the German soldiers at their family’s inn. Every evening the Kommandant is there, he gazes at the painting, sometimes engaging her in conversation about art. He almost seems like a human being sometimes, rather than just the enemy; when she needs something desperately, can Sophie actually trust him to help?

Nearly a century later, the painting hangs in the bedroom of Liv Halston, whose architect husband died suddenly four years earlier. She has her home itself and the painting to remember her husband: he built the celebrated Glass House, and the couple bought the painting on their honeymoon for a nominal cost. Unfortunately, she is having a hard time keeping up financially, and then when the origins of the painting come into question, she becomes the focus of a high-profile art restitution case. Liv wants to keep Sophie’s painting because it means so much to her, but Édouard’s descendants say it should rightly go back to them.

Complicating matters further is the new relationship that is, at long last, breathing new life into Liv’s heart and her empty day-to-day routine. Is Paul there by coincidence, or does he have ulterior motives?

The Girl You Left Behind delivers two love stories, almost 100 years apart, tied together by one painting. Can the lovers find each other again? With whom does the painting belong?

Having read Moyes’ Me Before You, I was eager to read this newest book, and it didn’t disappoint. It started a little slow, but then I could barely put it down. I had to know what happened to the pairs of lovers and to the beautiful painting of Sophie, desired by so many. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Rated: Moderate, for five uses of strong language and a few occasions of other milder language. There is one mildly detailed sex scene and another briefer one.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Girl You Left Behind
  • by Jojo Moyes
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: