Sunday, September 22, 2013
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
France - 1916 - World War 1 - The Germans are occupying a proud little village of St. Peronne. It had been one of the first towns to fall to the Germans. The Bessette family had been running a hotel, La Coq Rouge, a very fine establishment for generations. After the village becomes occupied, Sophie and her sister, Helene, continue to keep the hotel going while both of their husbands are fighting in the war. There were barely any men left in the town and the women had to take on men's work. The village had no milk to feed the babies, they were weeping from hunger and becoming ill from lack of good nutrition. The Germans were the only ones who ate well. They raided wine cellars and also took food that had been produced by the local farmers.
Herr Kommandant enters the story and decides that his men will be fed at the hotel. Sophie and her family would provide meals for the German officers. Herr Kommandant becomes almost mesmerized by a portrait, in its gilded frame, hanging in the hotel - a portrait of Sophie, painted by her artist husband, Edouard. Herr Kommandant shows kindness towards Sophie and her family, but becomes consumed by Sophie.
The plot becomes complex with a myriad of obstacles to overcome. Edouard is sent to a reprisal camp at Ardennes, which was said to be one of the worst. Sophie is taken prisoner by the occupying German forces.
The author effortlessly weaves together two stories, a century apart. The story flips over to 2006 - London - where Liv Halston is struggling to get over her husband's death, that happened four years earlier. In her living room hangs the portrait of The Girl You Left behind, given to her by her late husband, David, on their honeymoon. The story evolves around the portrait and just when you think the story is resolved , it takes on a twist, and then, yet another. Finally the resolution comes, and not what is expected. I absolutely loved the ending.
This is a beautifully written story that will capture you from the beginning. The author spins a tale of twisting emotions while blending the past and the present in vivid detail. You don't want to miss this one. 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are my own.