Book Review : The Girl You Left Behind


What happened to the girl you left behind?

France, 1916.

Sophie Lefevre must keep her family safe whilst her adored husband Edouard fights at the front. But when she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes a place of fierce tensions.

And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait – painted by Edouard – a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision . . .

Almost a century later, and Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and its troubled history.

A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv’s life upside down all over again . . .

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for what they love most – whatever the cost.


I love art and fiction. But I’ve actually read only a handful of art fiction. There are a lot of criteria – if the story is entirely based on a piece of art or involves a historically known artist or if it’s a biography of an artist. Not delving so deep into categories, I perceived ‘The Girl You Left Behind’ as an art fiction since it involves a painting as the seed of the story. I had read the famous ‘Me Before You’ and the others in the series and was might impressed with the first one. I wanted to read some more by Moyes and picked this Historical. The premise of a Historical during WWI France is super interesting in its own merit; adding cherry to the cake is a post-impressionist French painting as the cynosure of all activities in a century.

The story begins in France and is about Madame Sophie Lefevre and her portrait by her husband Eduoard. She and her family resist and then recede to the Germans until Sophie is captured and the painting is lost in oblivion. Cut to the millennial decade and the painting is seen at a beautiful glass house in London, owned by widow Liv Halston. The Lefevre descendants claim the painting as their heirloom and employ Paul McCafferty’s agency to win the case for them. Liv, having met and liked Paul, is caught in a web of love, duty and a strange affinity towards a forgotten Frenchwoman inside the portrait. Who owns it at the end is a twisted tale and you should read it.

What I loved the most is an extremely poignant account of Sophie, her life, struggles, and her inimitable love for her husband Edouard. I felt her story couldn’t have been written in a better way. She’s portrayed to be an extraordinarily strong woman who tries to handle the enemy, especially the Kommandant, as best as she could. While her love for Edouard was kindling forever in her heart, her relationship with the German Kommandant was beyond complex. She was their enemy and serving them dinner at her family hotel; yet, she gained respect from the Kommandant because of her presence and personality. They spoke to each other at times as equals, as just two people and not enemies, discussing art. They agreed to a deal which went haywire and maligned Sophie to her family in an irreparable way.

I felt that the story in present times, the part of Liv Halston/Paul McCafferty is less impressive than the historical part. The difference in writing styles is perhaps intentional to depict the difference of a century, but they didn’t resonate together to me. The latter part seemed stretched and a bit forced upon. Yet, I learned a hell lot about lost art during war and how they are claimed again. It’s a painful process and often misunderstood. But they were explained in quite details and in a worthwhile way. The twists in the tales were very welcome and I liked the climax.

Much recommended for art/war fiction lovers.

My Rating: 4.5/5

About the author: 

Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her books include the bestsellers Me Before You, After You and Still Me, The Girl You Left Behind, The One Plus One and her short story collection Paris for One and Other Stories. The Giver of Stars is her most recent bestseller and Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick. Her novels have been translated into forty-six languages, have hit the number one spot in twelve countries and have sold over thirty-eight million copies worldwide.

Me Before You has now sold over fourteen million copies worldwide and was adapted into a major film starring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke. Jojo lives in Essex.

Book Details:

Language: English,  Genre: Fiction / History

Author(s): Jojo Moyes

Publisher: Penguin, Year Published: September 2012

Binding: Kindle, Edition: First, Pages: 544

ISBN-10 : 9780718157845, ISBN-13 : 978-0718157845

ASIN : 0718157842

Buy this book from Amazon and show some love!

14 thoughts on “Book Review : The Girl You Left Behind

  1. Oh I agree, the first part was so wonderfully done. I loved Sophie. Liv’s story paled in comparison. Like you said, I too loved the idea and the whole process of reclaiming artefacts.
    I had no idea there was a genre called Art Fiction. The Goldfinch comes to mind right away. Have you read that one?


    • Thanks for reading! I haven’t read The Goldfinch yet, but a few others including an art heist story by Lee Child (don’t recall the name right now).


  2. Me before you! My all time favourite from Jojo Moyes. I haven’t read this one but your review reminded me of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, what a book! Historical!

    Have you read the Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes, even in it the author has plot with 2 time dimensions.


  3. Pingback: Best Reads of 2020 | One and a Half Minutes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.