The Girl You Left Behind – Jojo Moyes

If you’ve read any of the author’s previous books (especially Me Before You) then you’ll know you’re in for an epic emotional roller-coaster ride with this one. What’s more, you get two stories for the price of one; firstly, in a German occupied world war one French village, Sophie and her sister battle to survive and keep their family cafe running. Both their young husbands are away fighting and rarely heard from apart from occasional messages via the resistance. When the local Kommandant takes a shine to a portrait of Sophie painted by her husband, things take a turn for the worse for the whole family.

In the other story in the present day, Liv is a young widow living in a spectacular home she can’t afford that was designed by her late husband David. When she takes a chance on love again with American art investigator Paul, he sets in motion events that risk the other legacy she has from David- the painting of The Girl You Left Behind- which is claimed by the family of the artist as being taken from them by the Germans during the war. As Liv risks everything and fights to keep the painting she loves so much, she uncovers its passionate, surprising and tragic history.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Not kooks as such, as this not very frothy, but some fun originals, such as laid-back, slightly gothic Mo, who rescues Liv from a bad date before becoming her (non-paying) lodger. Paul’s brother Greg works at a gay bar and is a great supporting character. Marianne, the much-married American previous owner of the painting, is particularly colourful.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor– I love strong women characters, even in frothy books, and here are two for the price of one. In fact both could be said to be overly so, their stubbornness in their efforts to keep the things they love lead them to crazy decisions that put them in danger of losing everything. Sophie was always bold and fearless, we get a revealing glimpse of her pre-war life in Paris where she caught the eye of Edouard. Her self-destructive behaviour during the occupation is fueled by her blind determination to be reunited with him, but it brings her whole family into disrepute. For Liv it’s the final straw, she’s already at risk of losing her house, the expensive fight to keep the painting that means so much to her all but guarantees she will lose everything else, including the only man she’s had a connection with since her husband died. She too is blindly determined which helps her uncover the mystery, but makes her less easy to empathise with.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– Our usual categories can sometimes be very apt! The cover and title gave the impression of chicklit, but it was a little more substantial than that, the modern day sections could be described as that, but not the wartime parts. The two stories are told very differently, Sophie is told in the first person, and her desperation is clear. Liv is told from third person perspective and reads much more like a contemporary novel (not just because it’s set in modern day). The world war one period has been well researched and is told with rich detail, the scarcity of food, the brutality of the occupation, the icy winters, the small triumphs of secretly defying the oppressors, the lengths people are prepared to go to for survival. Liv’s modern life has much less hardship but is still a struggle, but there is some fun; especially her friends’ attempts to match-make.

Evaluation of your eBook?– It doesn’t quite pack the emotional wallop of Me Before You, possibly because it’s not just focused on two people, but the story has a much wider scope and is all the more epic for it. Personally I preferred the 1916 sections, they were a vivid insight into an interesting time where everything was heightened and I found Sophie more likable. While the ending concludes the story perfectly, it could actually also pave the way for a sequel as there’s more to tell. Hope we get to find out!

Frothy Ranking: 5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Amazon for £4.99

US: Not currently available new on Amazon US, but check for updates.