A quick reading Q&A with myself:
Do you read romance novels? Never.
Do you like books when you are sure you know where the story is going and how it will end? Not at all.
Do you like authors to wrap up all the loose ends in a novel? No.
Judging by the answers above, I should not have ever chosen The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, but I did. And I loved it.
“All that counts is the truth. Without it you’re basically just juggling people’s daft ideas.”
The emotional truth of Jojo Moyes’ characters as well as the strength of her writing elevates this novel beyond its romantic story-line. I was completely engrossed by the dual stories of women left behind, both in wartime and modern day.
The book’s title refers to a mysterious painting at the center of this novel, but the words also describe the heroines of the two intersecting stories. Sophie Lefevre is a French citizen trying to survive without her artist-turned-soldier husband under German occupation during World War I. Liv Halston is the widow of another artist (an architect) trying to rebuild her life despite impending financial ruin a century later.
Both women look to the painting for strength and hope with varying degrees of success. Part historical fiction, part modern day romance with a little bit of old-fashioned mystery; the book’s success comes from the honesty and identifiable emotions of these two women. I cared deeply for each, and even though I guessed their fates early on, was eager to follow their journeys.
“Do you know how it feels to resign yourself to your fate? It is almost welcome. There was to be no more pain, no more fear, no more longing. It is the death of hope that comes as the greatest relief.”
I can recommend this book (as well as Me Before You, which is even better) without any reservation. Moyes tells great stories and she tells them well.