Tuesday 8 January 2013

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes

Over the Christmas holidays I gave my final push towards my goal of reading 60 books in 2012.  I exceeded my target by 9 books!  Woo Hoo!  Now I get to tell you all about them.

This was the first book by Jojo Moyes that I had read and, to be honest, if it hadn't have been a free gift in my Red Network Event gift bag, I probably wouldn't have bought it.  Which would have been a huge mistake.

Set in the First World War, this book tells the story of a French artist and his muse who are torn apart by the horrors wreaked upon northern France and its citizens during the invasion and occupation by German Forces.  Edward Lefevre leaves his wife, Sophie, to fight on the front lines but Sophie is left with her own more subtle but nevertheless wretched battles to fight in their small village.
Interwoven is the story of Liv, who has also lost her husband and is suffering in the depths of her grief.  When a precious painting, a gift from her late husband, is suspected to be a stolen artifact from the war, Liv must pick herself up and fight to keep her most prized possession.
Other than Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, I have read few novels about the first World War.  I simply find them too harrowing.  This tale was no different.  But sometimes we must read that which frightens us.  Enjoyed is the wrong word to use to describe how I felt when reading about the suffering of the village and Sophie, in particular. I was moved by her dedication to Edward and compelled to keep reading whenever her story was on the page.
Liv's story on the other hand was less engaging.  As a character, I didn't relate to her at all.  Specifically, the relinquishment of her total life to her husband's choices was annoying.  I found her story tedious and read through the chapters with her story as quickly as possible.
The ending is predictable but satisfying, especially the fate of Edward and Sophie.  I enjoyed this novel tremendously which is why it gets 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing holding back that coveted last star is that I felt more time could have been spent developing a more plausible plot and likable character in the modern day storyline.

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