Pauline Sara Jo Moyes alias Jojo Moyes is a journalist, romance novelist, and screenwriter. Her novels were translated into 28 languages. She has won the “Romantic Novel of the Year Award” twice. So it will be no blunder on our part to expect something special in her novels in response to romanticism. Yet we must admit that romanticism attains somewhat unique charm mingled with deep-rooted pathos in her novel The Girl You Left Behind, from the series The Girl You Left Behind, preceded by Honeymoon in Paris.
The novel is set in three places- St. Peronne, Paris, London.
The Ist part of the novel is set in the backdrop of WW-lI when Germans occupied the town of St. Peronne. Before the German invasion, Sophie and Edouard used to live in Paris. When Edouard went off for the Front, Sophie returned to her hometown. The second plot centres around London. Liv and David lives there before David’s death
The Two-fold Plot:
This is an amazing story that links present and past in a tale of war and love. Setting in a dual-time-frame narrative, the first part is set at the backdrop of German-occupied France during WW-ll and the second part in Modern Day London.
Ist part is the story of Sophie LeF’evre, who lives with her family including her brother Aurelien, sister Helene and her two kids in their shabby hotel La Coq Rouge. Sophie’s husband and brother-in-law are somewhere at the front. But their news is not recently updated due to the seizing of communication by the German force.
Sophie’s husband Edourd is an artist who painted a picture of Sophie in their early life. German Kommandant sets eyes on that picture on his first aggressive visit to their house in charge of keeping a pig. And that portrait of Sophie brings them close together and splits them also. Sophie risks her reputation, her family, her life to rescue her husband trusting the deep obsession of the German commandment over the picture of her. She offered the picture as well as herself to free Edourd from prison.
The first part ends with Sophie’s arrest by German forces. But we meet Sophie again in the second part of the reprisal camp. Though she is injured heavily on her head yet her altruistic nature remains intact. Later we come to know that she met her husband and they reunited.
The second part begins almost a century later with Olivia Halston alias Liv. She is a widow of 30 with her eloquence and naive gait. Her husband David dies four years ago. After her husband’s death, she cloaks her life in his memory withholding her family’s call to come back. The most precious of everything to her was her husband’s gift of a portrait. This portrait is the one we found in Sophie’s house. The story revolves around the portrait. She clings to her husband’s memory till she meets Paul McCafferty. She falls in love with him. But later she discovers that Paul is after that portrait. Paul works for a company that’s mission is to recover stolen art. A long legal battle starts with Liv’s attempt to fix her right over the picture and prove its origin.
The Two Women:
The Girl You Left Behind confronts us the truth that how far a woman can go to protect their loved one. The two women Sophie and Olivia met at a point, at the convergent line in their attempt to preserve their loved ones in their hearts. Though the two different plots are breached by a century gap yet they are interlinked through the picture, Edouard Lefevre’s drawing of his wife, Sophie. Their determination to fight and harbour the most precious gift of life makes them brave and reputable.
Sophie LeF’evre: The female protagonist of the Ist part. It is her picture centering which the novel is fabricated.
Edouard Lefevre: Husband of Sophie LeF’evre
Aurelien: Brother of Sophie LeF’evre
Helene: Sister of Sophie LeF’evre
Kids: Nephew and Niece of Sophie LeF’evre
German Kommandant: The German Commandant who seized the town of Sophie and got obsessed with Sophie’s Portrait.
Olivia Halston alias Liv: The female protagonist of the second part who was gifted the portrait of Sophie by her husband.
David Halston: Husband of Olivia Halston
Paul McCafferty: Lover of Olivia Halston
The Painting of Sophie is the centre of attraction. When the German Kommandant finds Sophie’s painting, he plunges into a terrible obsession for it and Sophie. And the plot revolves around the portrait. The portrait is the main protagonist in this novel whose silent presence can be felt in both the plots.
The story brings a tear to my eyes. The scene where Sophie and Helena were trying to check their hunger while cooking delicious meals for the Germans is so heart-wrenching. The character of Sophie, her indomitable self-esteem, poignant voice, generous heart fade all other characters of the novel. She takes every risk of her life to provide the best for her family, but she was accused, betrayed, humiliated by her near ones. It brings tears in my eyes for Sophie and anger for the injustice she has to bear. No one understands her.
But the second storyline I don’t like so much. It is infused with exaggeration and flimsy elaboration. The long trial scene is strenuous to keep patience. Again Edward and Sophie’s love is more ethereal in the perspective of Paul and Olivia.
Anyway, I love the novel. It is a heartbreaking tale and at the same time heart-warming. The narration is touchy. There are details of German Occupation and war-ravaged condition painstakingly portrayed.
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