What’s it all about?:
In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.
Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…
In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.
What did I think?:
I had such high expectations for this book having loved the author’s previous work “Me Before You,” one of the Richard and Judy Book Club winners. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed, and although this wasn’t the perfect five stars, it was a cracking story. It is told in a dual narrative style by two women, one based in 1916, and one in the present day. In 1916, Edouard Lefevre has painted a portrait of his wife Sophie (which she entitles “The Girl You Left Behind”) before he goes to fight in the First World War for France. Sophie and her sister Helene are struggling with poverty and starvation along with the rest of their small town as it is taken over by the Germans. They are forced to prepare sumptuous and enticing dishes for the soldiers in the restaurant that they own – Le Coq Rouge, despite being famished themselves. The painting that Sophie’s husband painted hangs proudly in the restaurant and the Kommandant of the German division takes a bit of a fancy to it, and to Sophie herself. Sophie begins to question how far she would go to be re-united with her husband again.
Meanwhile, our present day heroine Liv (Olivia) is struggling herself, trying to come to terms with the sudden death of her husband, and is in severe financial difficulties. The only thing that seems to keep her going is the beautiful glass house that her late architect husband built for them, and a painting he purchased for her as a wedding gift which is… you’ve guessed it, “The Girl You Left Behind.” However, just when it seems things might be turning round for her in the love department, Liv learns something about the history of the painting, and she is in danger of losing everything dear to her.
I absolutely loved this book, it kept me gripped with its fast pace and intrigued with its mystery. Sophie and Liv are beautiful and inspiring characters whom the reader warms to almost instantly. The dual narrative of the two women was incredibly effective, and I found myself constantly curious and a little melancholy with the history that is recounted. I always worry with a book like this that the romance element can get a bit cheesy, which is why I don’t personally rate “chick-lit.” (Sorry any chick-lit fans!). This novel however, managed to pull it off without me wanting to stick my fingers down my throat which is always a good thing.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):