This is a novel with juxtaposed story lines, one set in WWI France and one in more modern day England. Sophie Lefévre is the wife of an artist who has gone into service for France during WWI. She is living with her sister and her children, whose husband is also in the French military, in St. Péronne running their family’s hotel, Le Coq Rouge. She cherishes the last vestiges she has: the portrait her husband Édouard painted of her which hangs inside the hotel as well as his letters, which are coming less and less frequently now.
German soliders had taken over St. Péronne two years prior and a new Kommandant has taken command. He decides Le Coq Rouge will be where he and his men will receive their evening meals and the Kommandant takes an unusual interest in the painting which Sophie had refused to hide. His attentions prove to be more about her than the painting and eventually Sophie gives the ultimate sacrifice in exchange for her husband’s life.
The other story line is about Liv Halston, a young widow who is bereft that her life is over before it had the chance to begin. Her husband was an up and coming architect and had built them an amazing flat which has grazed the pages of a prestigious home design magazine. He passes away suddenly and Liv is struggling to make ends after her taxes are raised to astronomic levels. She wrestles with the idea of selling the flat, which feel like a betrayal to her deceased husband, in order to get out of debt. Then one of her most cherished items, a portrait which her husband bought for her for almost nothing while on their honeymoon, comes to the attention of a prominent organization that traces missing works of art and restores them to their rightful owners.
This is where the two stories intersect and I flew through the book to find out exactly how. Moyes does an amazing job creating memorable characters while absolutely nailing the bleakness of life in WWI France. In the Liv’s part of the tale, her writing shows more humor and romance which gave this part of the book its own personality. This novel has it all and is an absolute must for your to-read list.
The only thing I don’t get about the book is the cover. While it does grab your attention, it doesn’t at all reveal what the story will be about. Whether or not I would have ever picked it up if I saw it on the bookstore shelves, I’ll never know.
This novel was provided to my by the She Reads Book Club in exchange for my honest opinion.
Honestly, I loved it.
There are a whole gob of other reviewers from She Reads that have reviewed the book as well. If you aren’t convinced yet, find out what they are saying about The Girl You Left Behind here…