Luckily I received my advanced copy from The Reading Room just before I left for holiday. Being on holiday, I started The Girl You Left Behind with the intention of taking things slowly, reading a few chapters a day, however I soon found myself sucked into Sophie’s world and then Liv and the painting came along and my initial plan dissolved.
First and foremost, I do not read many novels set during the First World War (or any war for that matter) so I do not have much with which I could compare The Girl You Left Behind. However, I thought it was a wonderfully crafted novel and Jojo Moyes cleverly balanced the historical perspective with a wonderful story of love and loss. I felt like I learnt a lot about a period I should probably know more about.
I loved all the characters at the beginning in France. Jojo Moyes really created a community full of colourful characters against such a grim background. I particularly enjoyed Sophie’s memories about meeting her husband in Paris. Also, I was immediately on Sophie’s side because of her name- childlike and narcissistic, I know, but I could not help it.
The time shift was a bit of a bump in the road the first time it occurred. I didn’t really connect to Liv at first and even throughout the novel my feelings toward to Liv wavered between cold to lukewarm. However, that was neither here nor there once the real story was properly introduced through Paul and his work for TARP.
I have read a few books and seen a few television shows where the subject of the stolen art during WWII has been addressed and it is something that really interests me. Here, the story changed from one of survival and love to the greater themes of justice and restitution and even selfishness. Throughout the second half, I was constantly asking myself what I would do if I were in Liv’s position. I thought the court scenes were very well written, constantly juxtaposing the real fate of Sophie and the modern day lawyers using the relevant parts of the truth to win the case.
Overall, it was quite a complex story- more so than I expected if I am truly honest and for this reason I could even overlook the ending. It is a novel that can be enjoyed by a broad spectrum of readers- I would not hesitate to recommend this to my 16 year old cousin or my mother.
I am now going to find some more literature on the stolen artwork of WWII, try again to read Me Before You, and also buy a copy of The Girl You Left Behind for my friend.