Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

When my proof copy of Jojo Moyes' latest novel; The Girl You Left Behind dropped through my letterbox last week, I gave out a little squeal of excitement.  For many years now Jojo Moyes has been one of my favourite authors - each of her novels has thrilled me, and left me feeling that she's never going to top this.  Her last novel; Me Before You, which I reviewed on my blog here was a huge success for her, and I really did think that it was her best.  However, having just spent the last few days completely entranced by The Girl You Left Behind, my opinion has changed - THIS ONE is her best!

The Girl You Left Behind is the title of a painting, and the focus of the whole story.  Part One of the novel takes us back to 1916 in St Peronne, a small French town occupied by the Germans.  It is the middle of World War I, and the close-knit community of St Peronne are having to cope with the presence of the enemy amongst them.    Sophie Lefevre's artist husband Edouard is at war and she has returned from her marital home in Paris to help her family run their bar Le Coq Rouge.   Sophie's most treasured possession is The Girl You Left Behind - her portrait, painted lovingly by her husband before he went away.

Sophie narrated her story, she tells of how she and her sister Helene are expected to feed the German soldiers, and how they daringly sneak bits of food for their children and other people in the community.  When a new Kommandant comes to take control of the German troops, Sophie and he are drawn together by their appreciation of art and the painting becomes their link.   Sophie hates the Germans, yet she sees a flash of humanity in the Kommandant, and it is this that becomes her downfall.

Jojo Moyes
Part Two of the novel leaps forward 100 years and features Liz Halston - a thirty-year old widow who now owns The Girl You Left Behind.  Liv still mourns her late husband David, and like Sophie she feels that the painting is their only real link - she would do anything to keep it.  David bought the painting for her as a wedding present because Sophie reminded him of Liv.

I was so enraptured by Sophie's story in Part One that I felt almost bereft when all of a sudden the author took us to the present time, I wanted to hear more about Sophie, what happened to her?  Did she find Edouard?   However, after just a couple of pages of Part Two and Liv's story, I was just as absorbed.  And, then the stories become interlinked, as Liv fights to keep the painting, Sophie's story is continued through the diaries and letters that she and her family members wrote all those years ago.

This is a truly beautiful story, often heart-breaking, sometimes heartening but always warm and written so very very well.  Jojo Moyes has once again produced a novel that makes the reader really think, and also feel every emotion along with the characters.   The research is impeccable and introduces readers to a part of history that is little known.

It is captivating - another triumph from this wonderful author.   Bravo!

The Girl You Left Behind will be published on 27 September by Penguin Books.


  1. I loved this one we just have to wait for everyone else to read it!

  2. I have never read any of her books before, but I have Me Before You on my TBR list, and sitting on my shelf. I love the sound of this book though, and look forward to reading it. Thanks for the great review.

    p.s Are you happy with the changes to blogger (i'm not). I also tried to send you an e-mail via the blog, but now it wont let me as it says your e-mail address is not in my address book! Any ideas?

  3. Hi Lisa - I really don't understand why things have to change - have no idea about the email thing - sorry.

    You must read Me Before You - it's fabulous

    A x

  4. Heard good things about this one also (I have only read one of hers and I loved it - Me before you), maybe another for the wishlist. Thanks for the fab review Anne