The Girl You Left Behind
France, 1916. The Kommandant of the German soldiers who occupy the village of St. Péronne is a cultured man, but he’s capable of brutality. When he orders Sophie Lefèvre, the owner of a small restaurant, to cook for his officers, she complies. When he wants conversation, they discuss art. The Kommandant is captivated by the portrait of Sophie painted by her husband Édouard before the war. When Édouard is captured while fighting with the French forces, Sophie offers the Kommandant her most precious possession in return for her husband’s safety.
England, 2013. Long after her husband David’s sudden death, Liv Halston is still adrift. She is in debt, her job is drying up, and David’s last gift, a painting by Édouard Lefèvre, reminds her of the past. Then Liv meets Paul McCaffrey, and something wonderful happens: her hope returns. She invites him into her home, but Paul leaves knowing he cannot see her again outside of work.
Moyes has great sympathy for life’s dilemmas. Hurting from Paul’s rejection, Liv learns that ownership of the painting, which has grown in value, is in dispute. She must prove David bought it from its legal owner, a daunting task, or face another devastating loss. If only Liv had some of Sophie’s courage! As the history of the painting is gradually revealed, with astonishing results, you may decide she does.
When two very different women from different worlds meet, metaphorically at least, in a courtroom, they raise important issues that anyone who has loved and lost – and that is almost everyone – will understand. Moyes writes movingly of love (Me Before You, 2013, and The Last Letter to Your Lover, 2011), and The Girl You Left Behind is highly recommended.