The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind

Published
27/09/2012

Publisher
Penguin Books Ltd

My Rating – 4 stars

Hot on the heels of her hit novel Me Before You, Jojo Moyes, twice winner of the RNA Novel of the Year Award ,  has struck gold again with The Girl You Left Behind.  Those familiar with her back catalogue will already know what a diverse author she is, every novel is different from its predecessor – her latest offering has a dual time-frame narrative (my favourite!) an ideal vehicle to show her versatility and skill as a consummate storyteller.

Sometimes dual narratives can be distracting, disrupting the story’s flow, but here we have time to savour the story of Sophie in occupied France in 1916 with the first third of the novel dedicated to her troubled life under Nazi rule.  Her artist husband, Edouard, is away fighting at the front and she and her sister, Helene remain in St Peronne, scrabbling an existence, forced to feed the German occupiers in their little hotel, Le Coq Rouge.  It’s a constant battle to survive, treading the fine line  between resistance and collaboration – some of the villagers quick  to make assumptions if anyone associates with the enemy with Sophie, despite her best intentions, becoming the target of their gossip.  Jojo Moyes succeeds in creating a living, breathing community, feeling the strain of occupation, their loss of identity. 

We leave Sophie’s story at a crucial moment and are flung into present day London where Liv Halston, a young widow, is beset with financial worries and finding it difficult to move on after the death of  her architect husband.  Her most treasured possession is a painting entitled The Girl You Left Behind which her husband bought on their honeymoon.  The girl in the painting is Sophie Lefevre and her portrait becomes the subject of a hotly contested court case as Edouard Lefevre’s descendants claim it was looted by the Nazis and therefore it should be returned to its rightful owners.  Throw in a bit of romance for Liv and you have the perfect recipe for a compelling read where voices from the past have a strong impact on the present.

This is a very cleverly constructed story which drew me in from the opening pages.  Once again, I preferred the historical setting of Sophie’s story to that of Liv’s modern-day travails but the narratives are designed to complement rather than compete with each other and I loved the way elements of Sophie’s story are echoed in Liv’s life.

Jojo Moyes is going from strength to strength with Penguin.  The Girl You Left Behind should ensure the continued expansion  of her fanbase and increased recognition for this very talented writer.  Looking forward to the next one!

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4 Comments

  1. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for a fab review. I love dual time frame stories too. I will look out for this one and I must also read Me Before You, must be one of the last still to not have read it!
    Lindsay

  2. I have a weakness for dual frame narratives too. I do want to try something by Jojo Moyes but I think I will try Me Before You first – would you agree that’s a good place to start?

  3. Teresa says:

    I really enjoyed Me Before You, Sam but it’s very different from her other novels – purely contemporary setting etc. I loved Ship of Brides which is about Australian WWII brides sailing to meet their British naval husbands.

  4. Ooh, Ship of Brides does sound interesting. Will try that one first.

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