One of the recommendations was for The Girl You Left Behind, also by Jojo Moyes. I read the synopsis.
Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts.
Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.It sounded good. It was available at the library immediately. I decided to read it.
There's been a lot about returning stolen artwork to the families of victims of the Nazis during WWII. But not much written about WWI. That was part of the intrigue. The Girl You Left Behind follows to plot lines, one set during the occupation of France by the Germans. The other is set in more modern day London. A piece of art called "The Girl You Left Behind" is what binds the two storylines together.
In 1916 Germany, Sophie is the subject of the artwork painted by her husband, Edouard, while they were living in Paris. Edouard is off to fight the war and Sophie returns to her family hotel in northern France. Sophie brings the painting with her and hangs it, her most cherished possession, in a prominent place so she can enjoy it and so she can be reminded of the girl she once was.
She and her sister keep the hotel going. Moyes give a rich picture of what the occupation was like for the people in Sophie's town. The Germans requisition many things from the residents of the town. Eventually they show up at Sophie's hotel, demanding that she and her sister feed the Germans nightly. The Kommandant becomes obsessed with the painting as well.
The modern story is about young widow, Liv, whose most treasured possession is the painting "The Girl You Left Behind," which her husband bought for her on their honeymoon. Liv had been so down, emotionally and financially, when she meets a guy in a bar. She has hope that live can be happy again. That's when the family of Edouard learns about the painting and they want it back. Complications ensue and we're not really sure who will end up with the painting in the end.
I think that I didn't know which way the story is going to go because I wasn't sure how it should go. Emotionally, I was vested in Liv and I wanted her to get to keep the painting. But ethically, was that the right response? What about Jewish family during WWII who lost their possessions to Nazi looting? If those items were "sold" later on, shouldn't the Jewish families get their items back? I was so torn. This book gave me so much to think about. The Girl You Left Behind would probably make an excellent book club choice.
Suffice it to say that I was very satisfied with the resolution.
Upon turning the last page, I noticed that there was a prequel novella, Honeymoon in Paris, to this novel. That was available from the library. It's only about 70 pages long so I'm now about 1/3 of the way thru that one, too. I'm not sure if it's making me like Sophie and Liv more or less. I'll report back when I finish.
*In case you're wondering about daily photo challenges, check out the one I've been part of the longest. Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day (otherwise known as FMS PAD).