As part of organizing my blog into different sections like Double Movie review, Old is Gold etc, my new feature on my blog starts today and I call it- The Book Club. As the name rightly suggests, this feature will be a collection of the books I have read and enjoyed and my opinions and remarks on the same.
Today’s book is a book spanning two women who are years apart from each other. One who lived during the war and the other a woman living in today’s world. The book is titled, ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ by Jojo Moyes. I recently started venturing into a lot of her books and she is slowly turning out to be one of my favorite authors as well. Jojo Moyes has a way of handling a story with so much gravity in light sentences that don’t complicate things with harsh words or jargon. But her simple style does not in any way, affect the mood and gravity of the story she is telling.
Title: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: Jojo Moyes
Length: 369 pages
Genre: Romance, Historical, War
The story is about two women, and their fated connection to each other. The first woman is Sophie Lefèvre. For Sophie, her world is about her husband who she adores, Édouard. It’s World War I and he has left to join with the others to go to the war front. She is left in their home in a countryside in France with her sister and both their children and her younger brother. They run a hotel, which was once the finest in that area but is now a wreck that is barely holding on. Amidst starvation and struggles to survive through the war, the Germans arrive at their village. The new Kommandant in charge of the base instructs Sophie and her sister to provide the meals necessary for the base to which they reluctantly agree.
But it is at this time, that the Kommandant sets his eyes on a portrait in Sophie’s home which he feels he must have at any cost. The portrait is a full sized portrait of Sophie that Édouard, who is originally an artist had painted of her in their initial days of marriage. For Sophie, that painting means her life as it is the only thing she can hold onto that remains a relic of her husband whose whereabouts are unknown. The only news they hear of their men are the news of them dying at the war front and due to illness. The Kommandant’s obsession towards her painting leads to an unprecedented set of events for Sophie, that village and the Kommandant.
The second woman in this story is Liv Halston, who is a widow and lives almost a century apart from Sophie. For her, passing each day is difficult but is getting better,slowly after the death of her young husband. The one thing that helps her go by is the charismatic and beautiful painting of a radiant woman in their home, which her husband bought for Liv. This painting is none other than Sophie’s painting. A tumultuous legal battle then ensues when the original owner of the painting realizes it is with Liv. The story then entails as a train of discovery for Liv as she battles for the girl that was left behind.
The first half of the book is about Sophie while the latter part is about Liv. The end of Sophie’s part is actually shrouded in mystery, which gets solved only a hundred years later when Liv is fighting for the painting. Sophie’s part is harsh and realistic. The situation during the war, the people who secretly protested against the war, the people who sided with the enemy, how people misunderstood Sophie when she was forced to feed the Germans by the Kommandant. It was not just a story about Sophie but about so many others.
When it came to Liv, the story was mostly revolving within her. The initial parts of Liv’s story did not capture my attention as much as Sophie’s did, probably because after all the grueling tales of the war and all, Liv’s problems seemed maybe less important. But as the fight at court continued, we got to get a better glimpse into the character of Liv and how much her sincerity showed through to Sophie, a woman she only knows through an unknown portrait hanging in her home. The fact that Liv stood up for Sophie despite their fated connection meant a lot, because we the readers knew how suppressed and and misunderstood Sophie was. In a way, Liv saved Sophie.
If there was one thing I wish was’nt in the story, was the romantic involvement that Liv had in between all this. It just seemed so irrelevant and was distracting us from the better part of the story.
But apart from that, this is a book that I would highly recommend. One of my favorites in Jojo Moye’s books definitely. It’s tightly knit plot, tying two worlds and people that couldn’t have been connected otherwise!
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