So, after starting the year by delving into survivalist mormonism, book two needed to be little more light hearted. I ended up with story half about France during the first world war and half about cultural restitution – I know, but actually it sounds heavier than it was.
I started working my way through JoJo Moyes’ back catalogue 18 months ago after reading ‘Me before you’ and the two follow ups. I’m a girl, I enjoy a bit of romance in my novels from time to time, Moyes obliges often with a twist and interesting back story, ‘The girl you left behind’ is no different.
It’s really two tales effortlessly and subtly intertwined. Starting in 1917 we meet Sophie in an occupied French village, her battle to keep her family safe while her artist husband fights on the frontline. Throw into that a dangerous obsession a German Kommandant develops with her and specifically, a painting of her.
In 2012, we meet Liv, a widow – now in possession of the painting of Sophie – given to her as a wedding present. What ensues is a journey to find out the truth about what happened to Sophie while raising questions about ownership and looking into the crimes committed during both wars.
It’s estimated 100,000 pieces of art were stolen from Jewish families during the World War 2, it’s only during the last decade that many of these possessions have been returned to their rightful owners. While the first part of this book deals with events in 1917 – both wars come in to play in this novel and it did send me on a bit of mission to find out more about a war crime I was fairly oblivious too.
I can’t say a whole a lot about this book without giving away some major spoilers, I hate a book spoiler so I’ll tread a fine line. The only thing I really struggled with is trying to picture the main characters and considering this is literally about a painting one of them, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Moyes does manage to create a stunning image of a French town in 1917 and the struggles faced by many.
On the whole ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ was thought provoking, dealing with an interesting subject matter with a hint of romance.
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