by Jojo Moyes
I was offered this book by my daughter who thought the subject might interest me. Although I was a little sceptical at first I very soon found myself drawn into the lives of two very similar women living a hundred years apart.
Sophie and Liv are linked by a painting called The Girl You Left Behind. It is a portrait of Sophie by her husband Eduard who is away fighting in the trenches of 1917 France. It is all that she has of Eduard as she struggles to protect her family during the German occupation of Northern France.
For both women, the painting is not just a link to the men they have lost, it has become a symbol of their relationships. Neither is willing to let go of either.
The book jumps between the two women’s stories, mixing first and third person help separate the two narratives.
Sophie’s story is particularly compelling and very tragic. Told from her perspective it gives a great insight into the frequently overlooked. Through Sophie we learn a lot the horrors of the trenches, but behind the lines people tried to continue their daily lives as best they could. Food and resources were scarce and Sophie must do all she can to protect what is left of her family.
Liv on the other hand is a widow who lives in contemporary London. The Girl You Left Behind hangs in her flat as a reminder of her late husband, a gift from their honeymoon.
Despite the differences in time and place, both women have to face great tragedy and loss. And for both of them, Sophie’s portrait has become a symbol of hope and love. And in both cases the introduction of a stranger into their lives forces them to make a difficult decision and tests their inner strength.
It is a gripping and emotional story. I found myself conflicted. On one hand I couldn’t put the book down and wanted desperately to get to the conclusion; on the other hand I didn’t want the story to end.
The way in which the two storylines are woven together is imaginative, keeping a thread that is easy to follow. I found both women to be strong characters and loved the way they are prepared to fight for the things that matter to them.
Sophie’s tale is the more intriguing of the two, mainly because it’s setting in a place and time I know little about. But it is Liv’s story that brings it all together. The ending is not what I expected but on reflection, is the only way it could have worked.
A really good read and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It kept me hooked from the very beginning.