The Girl You Left Behind. Finished 10-29-13, rating 4.75/5, fiction, 369 pages, pub. 2012
In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.
Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…
In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost. (Goodreads)
The dueling time period story isn’t one that I seek out, but in this case I loved it. It was told at just the right pace, switching between the past of WWI France and current day London, at all the right times to keep me invested in both stories. We learn about Sophie first and what her family and village had to endure during the German occupation. I loved Sophie and was so disappointed when we moved to Liv who seemed weak in comparison. Sophie was full of spirit and strength. She was a survivor and I wanted to see how she would manage to save herself and those she loved. Poor, sad Liv hadn’t gotten over the death of her husband four years before, no friends, no life. Sophie’s portrait and history became the only thing that Liv cared about even when it cost her everything she had managed to find, a friend, a love.
I learned about the German destruction of WWI France, which I knew next to nothing about and I appreciated the restitution storyline. I knew what I thought was right, but Liv’s journey with the portrait made me see the flip side of restitution issues. I didn’t love Liv’s trial, but the way these two stories were so separate and yet so connected made this book a joy to read. I loved the way it wrapped up and I imagine I’ll be thinking of Sophie for at least a few days.
I highly recommend this one. It was such a thought-provoking and satisfying novel. I know many preferred her book, Me Before You, but since I haven’t read it yet I have nothing to compare it to. I plan to remedy that soon!
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