Thursday, July 24, 2014

Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

Though some of the plot lines were rather far fetched, I still enjoyed this book.  It centres around a painting, "The Girl you Left Behind".  The painting was a portrait by the artist, Edouard Lefevre, of his wife Sophie.  It was painted just prior to World War I in Paris.  When war breaks out, Edouard is drafted and Sophie returns to her home town to help her sister, whose husband has also gone to war, run their deceased parents inn and tavern.  She also looks after her teenaged brother and her sister's small children.

The town has been occupied by the Germans who eventually commandeer the hotel, and Sophie, to prepare their nightly meals.  The new Kommandant takes a particular interest in the painting and its subject.  Desperate, she comes to trust him and offers up the painting, and herself, for a chance to see her husband one last time.  Branded a traitor by the townspeople she is ferried away in a German truck and we do not find out what happened to her until the end of the book.  Though she remains hopeful the Kommandant has arranged for her to see her husband, it seems more likely he is punishing her and sending her to a prison camp.

Almost a hundred years later Sophie's painting hangs in Liv Halston's home.  She is the widow of a young and promising architect who had purchased it for her for a pittance in Barcelona shortly before he died.  By chance she encounters Paul, a former police officer who now locates artwork stolen in wartime (primarily World War II) on behalf of the descendants of the original owners.  And of course, coincidentally, he has been hired by Lefevre's descendants to locate and recover "The Girl you Left Behind" now that they are aware it is very valuable.

Liv risks everything to hold on to the painting - both because of the emotional attachment to her husband and because the more she finds out about Sophie the more she relates to her.  Much of the book centres around Liv's efforts to prove she is the lawful owner of the painting and Paul's company's efforts (at first with his help and then without it) to show it belongs to the Lefevres.  As they unearth the history of the painting there are flashbacks to what happened to Sophie after she was loaded into that transport truck.  And people who knew her, or knew of her, tell their sides of the story.

The story comes to a very neat, though somewhat far fetched ending, but I still couldn't wait to find out more about Sophie's fate as the story unwound.  I really liked both Sophie and Liv, and can't help but think they would have liked each other, and was very drawn into their stories.

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