The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of the World War I, Edouard's portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer's dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie decides to risk everything--her family, her reputation, and her life--for the chance to see her husband again. Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting's true worth, and a battle begins over its troubled history. Was the painting looted during the war? Who is to pay retribution? And who is the true owner now? As the layers of the painting's dark past are revealed, Liv's life is turned upside down all over again. And her belief in what is right is put to the ultimate test..."
I loved this book! It is reminiscent of The Firebird, with a twist of The Hiding Place. I didn't like it as much as I liked each one of those books individually, but it was really good. I thought the writing was excellent. Most of the characters were developed very well, and they each fit right where they needed to in the story. Liv is kind of a hard character to grasp onto at first, but as you get to know her better she grows on you. She becomes much softer and you can see the reasons why she is who she is. I liked Paul a lot. He just seems like a good, down-to-earth, normal guy. He made a difficult choice at the end that I applauded, but was scared for him too. I think he did the right thing. Both Paul and Liv had flaws, which is good because I don't like it when characters are too perfect. Mo was an interesting character. I'm still not sure what I think of her. She added some humor and a flair of color to Liv's clean and white lines. I really loved the other half of the story, though. Sophie and Helene were excellent characters. Their depth and strength was inspirational. I don't know if I could have done what they did. I don't agree with the decision Sophie made, at all. I thought a lot about it, and I just couldn't have done it. I don't think that is what my husband would want me to do either. Now, I won't tell you if it paid off in the end, but knowing the consequences doesn't change my mind. I can't imagine the inner battles that went on in these women's minds. The Germans had taken almost everything from them, and then they are asked to cook for them. Awww, what a struggle it must have been. I loved Liliane. I didn't like the decision she made at the end either, but I don't blame her. The strength she had to go behind the German's backs was also inspirational. Would I have been brave enough? I wasn't sure how the two stories would fit together, but, in the end, it was almost seamless. I liked the ending and thought it brought everything together well. I thought Ms. Moyes did a really good job of wrapping it up, but not too perfectly. I do like the perfect ending sometimes, but I don't think it would have fit the book. I really enjoyed seeing it all come together, and thought the surprise guest at the end was a fabulous touch.
There is language in this book, especially the "f" word. There are several of them. There is a bunch of other language, and the Lord's name is used as well. There is a mostly rape scene. I say mostly, because she kind of knew what she was getting herself into, and purposefully went, but she didn't realize how bad it would really be. There is a very violent and gruesome suicide. There is also war violence and poor treatment of the people by the German occupiers. There are some deaths. Happy, right? There are actually some happy moments, some inspirational people and experiences, and it makes it worth the sadness and harshness of the rest. It makes me so thankful to be where I am, at the time I am. I am so blessed! I definitely recommend this book.
Rating: R (This rating does not follow the movie ratings, exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, including the "f" word, rape, suicide, war atrocities, death.
Recommendation: 18 and up.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.