The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel

Kobo eBook available

read instantly on your Kobo or tablet.

buy the ebook now

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

Penguin Publishing Group | June 24, 2014 | Trade Paperback

Not yet rated | write a review
Another New York Times bestseller by the author of Me Before You and One Plus One—a spellbinding story of two women united in their fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts.

Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 464 pages, 8.43 × 5.48 × 0.98 in

Published: June 24, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 014312577X

ISBN - 13: 9780143125778

Found in: Fiction

save 44%

  • In stock online

$10.53  ea

Online Price

$18.00 List Price

eGift this item

Give this item in the form of an eGift Card.

+ what is this?

This item is eligible for FREE SHIPPING on orders over $25.
See details

Easy, FREE returns. See details

Item can only be shipped in Canada

Downloads instantly to your kobo or other ereading device. See details

All available formats:

Check store inventory (prices may vary)

Reviews

– More About This Product –

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 464 pages, 8.43 × 5.48 × 0.98 in

Published: June 24, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 014312577X

ISBN - 13: 9780143125778

Read from the Book

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThis book owes a great deal to Helen McPhail’s excellent book The Long Silence: Civilian Life Under the German Occupation of Northern France, 1914–1918, about a largely unrecorded (at least in this country) corner of First World War history.I would also like to thank Jeremy Scott, partner at Lipman Karas, for his generous expert help on the issue of restitution, and for answering my many questions with patience. I have had to tweak certain legal points and procedures for the sake of the plot, and any errors or deviations from actual practice are, of course, my own.Thanks to my publishers at Pamela Dorman Books, most pertinently Pamela Dorman, but also Clare Ferraro, Carolyn Coleburn, Nancy Sheppard, Julie Miesionczek, Kiki Koroshetz, Louise Braverman, Rebecca Lang, Meredith Burks, Roseanne Serra, Kathryn Court, Dick Heffernan, and Norman Lidofsky, as well as the whole team at Penguin USA. I’m very grateful to the various tour buddies who’ve helped me on my way around the United States, most notably Alex McIntyre and Claudia Sloan, Bob Wilkins, and Larry Lewis. Thanks also to the home team at Penguin UK, especially Louise Moore, Mari Evans, Clare Bowron, Katya Shipster, Elizabeth Smith, Celine Kelly, Viviane Basset, Raewyn Davies, Rob Leyland, and Hazel Orme. Thank you to Guy Sanders for research help beyond the call of duty.Thank you to all at Curtis Brown, most especially my agent, Sheila Crowley, but also including Jonny Geller, Katie McGowan, Jess Cooper, Ta
read more read less

From the Publisher

Another New York Times bestseller by the author of Me Before You and One Plus One—a spellbinding story of two women united in their fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s word-of-mouth bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and struck a chord with a wide range of readers everywhere. Now, with The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker—a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with her signature ability to capture our hearts.

Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait’s true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv’s world is turned upside all over again.

About the Author

Jojo Moyes is the New York Times bestselling author of One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind, Honeymoon in Paris, Me Before You, The Last Letter from Your Lover, The Ship of Brides, and Silver Bay. She also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She lives in Essex, England.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND:"Vibrant and gripping.”—People Magazine (***)"Jojo Moyes expertly weaves a bittersweet tale in this irresistible novel, taking careful interest in the dark corners that exist within great love stories, and the trickiness of simple happy endings. A-"—Entertainment Weekly“Moyes writes delicious plots, with characters so clearly imagined they leap off the pages in high-definition prose. . . . Clever plot turns make for a satisfying ending . . .  Moyes brings fresh strokes to this story about the power of art and love to transcend what imprisons us. Romantics looking for a story set amid the politics of plundered art couldn't do much better than The Girl You Left Behind.”—USA Today (3 1/2 stars)"Jojo Moyes builds on her strengths in this moving and accomplished new novel. As she did in the best-selling Me Before You, she asks readers to think in fresh ways about a morally complex issue. . . . The Girl You Left Behind is strong, provocative, satisfying fiction."—The Washington Post"'In this moving paean to daring, determination and perspicacity, Moyes keeps the reader guessing down to the last hankie."—Los Angeles Times"Good storytelling."—New York Daily News"In her latest heart tugger, Jojo Moyes deftly weaves the story of newlyweds in WWI France with that of a young widow in today’s London."—Parade"Lovely and wry, Moyes’s newest is captivating and bittersweet."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"Moyes (Me Before You) has created a riveting dep
read more read less

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION
“I think we can break the rules for something we love” (p. 206).

Édouard Lefèvre is already a celebrated painter in the Matisse school when he asks Sophie to model for him. She hesitates, but feels flattered that a man with “the power to make one of Paris’s brightest stars feel dull and invisible” (p. 46) is interested in a humble shopgirl. As he paints her portrait, Édouard and Sophie fall deeply in love. All too soon, war erupts.

When Édouard joins the French army at the start of World War I, Sophie finds herself left behind, waiting in St. Péronne, a small French village, for her husband’s return. She shares her fear for Édouard’s safety with her sister, Hélène, who has also been left husbandless by the war. Together, the two women run their family’s small hotel and care for their younger brother, Aurélien, and Hélène’s two children. They do their best to keep Le Coq Rouge open as a place for neighbors to gather.

Once the Germans take over St. Péronne, life becomes even grimmer. Food supplies dwindle, and German soldiers supplement their needs by requisitioning French livestock and household goods. One village woman is rumored to be a collaborator and other villagers are brutally beaten seemingly for no reason at all. Then, a new and more formidable Kommandant arrives. Much to Sophie’s surprise, the German officer is knowledgeable about art and admires both the painting of Édouard’s hanging in Le Coq Rouge—and its subject, Sophie herself. As the Kommandant spends more time at the hotel, a dangerous obsession grows, drawing Sophie into a bargain for her husband’s life that could have utterly devastating consequences for her and the family and friends she has fought so hard to protect.

More than a century later, Sophie’s portrait, The Girl You Left Behind, hangs in the London home of another young woman. Widowed at twenty-eight, Liv Halston still lives in the spectacular glass house she used to share with her husband, David. A celebrated architect, David designed several famous buildings, including their home, which now she can barely afford.

David’s sudden death left Liv financially as well as emotionally devastated. “His loss is a part of her, an awkward weight she carries around, invisible to everyone else” (p. 151). But when Liv meets Paul McCafferty during a chance encounter, she starts to feel as though life might have something in store for her yet. Paul’s work lies in the restitution of lost art and the spoils of war—and in a cruel twist, his next case is the portrait of Sophie that Liv loves most in all the world.

In recent years—unbeknown to Liv—interest in Édouard Lefèvre had skyrocketed and the painting that David bought Liv on their honeymoon could easily be worth two or three million pounds. Although Sophie’s portrait is unsigned, Édouard’s family has a strong case put together by none other than Paul McCafferty and the art recovery organization he works for, TARP (Trace and Return Partnership). When Liv begins looking into the dark history behind the painting and Sophie’s own story, she finds it is much more complicated, though, than anyone could have ever known.

The attraction between Paul and Liv is instant and powerful, but the battle over who is the true owner of the portrait forces each to decide what really matters—and how much they are willing to risk to save it.


ABOUT JOJO MOYES

Jojo Moyes is a journalist and the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller Me Before You and The Last Letter from Your Lover. She lives with her husband and children in Essex, England.


A CONVERSATION WITH JOJO MOYES

Is The Girl You Left Behind inspired by an actual case? What influenced your decision to set the historical part of the novel during World War I rather than World War II?

Yes, I read an article about a young woman war reporter in the Second World War who was left in charge of one of Hitler’s stores of stolen art and given a valuable painting as a “thank-you,” and it got me thinking about how morality can become almost relative in times of war, even for good people. And then I saw something about occupied France in the First World War and realized I had heard so little about this part of history, and the two things slowly started to conflate in my mind.

What kind of research did you do for The Girl You Left Behind? Is there a real artist whose work you imagined as Édouard Lefèvre’s paintings?

Not one artist in particular. I went round the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, looking at the Impressionists on the upper floors, and I imagined Lefèvre as a mixture of many of the artists I saw.

You are clearly not an author who shies away from controversial subject matter. Your last novel, Me Before You, is—in part—the story of a paraplegic man who cannot bear to live his life wheelchair-bound any longer. In The Girl You Left Behind, you use a possibly stolen piece of art as a springboard for both romance and a highly publicized claim for restitution. What draws you to these types of stories?

I love stories where the answers are not black or white; stories that make you think: what would I do in that position? And it’s often news stories that inspire me by prompting this exact question. I like to write about issues that have a bit of substance to them. Yes, my books have love stories, but I hope there’s a fair bit of grit in the oyster, too.

You exhibit tremendous empathy for Sophie and Liv, both of whom are unfairly condemned by public opinion. Have you ever found yourself—or someone you admire—in a similar situation?

No, thank goodness. But the tide of public opinion turning against you, especially in an age of social media, must be a truly terrifying thing, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to guess how it would feel to be on the wrong side of it.

As you illustrate in the novel, public sentiment generally sides with the claimant rather than the current owner in most art restitution cases. As a journalist, do you feel that the press takes advantage of its power to shape public opinion?

I think there is—rightly—a huge groundswell of sympathy for those who lost precious possessions in wartime. But the farther away from the original loss we get, the less clear it can become, especially if people have bought the item in good faith. When I researched the issue, I read academic papers on the legal costs of reclamation and the length of cases, and it was clear that this has become something of an industry in itself—not always a good thing.

Do you find it easier to write historical fiction or stories set in the present day? Which do you prefer to read?

I read across all genres. I often think I prefer modern-day fiction, but two of the best books I’ve read recently—Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber—are set several centuries ago.

You wrote an article for a British newspaper titled “Writing a Sex Scene Is an Impossible Task.” What have you learned about writing sex scenes?

I’m definitely getting a bit braver about writing sex scenes, but they’re so full of pitfalls that it’s often easier not to. The biggest problem is using terminology that doesn’t sound like either porn or a biology textbook. You don’t want anything that’s going to pull the reader out of the narrative, no matter how briefly.

What is the most memorable comment you’ve ever received from a fan?

Oh, since Me Before You there have been so many—there was a point where I couldn’t keep up with my e-mails. But the one that moved me most was from a woman whose sister had committed suicide at Dignitas the previous year and who said that had she known what the book was about she wouldn’t have picked it up. But having read it, she felt she had a better insight into her sister’s thought processes, and that it had given her closure. That’s an amazing thing to be told.

Your love stories are famously complicated, something many readers can relate to. How do you construct the arc of a romantic relationship?

Oh, that’s a “how long is a piece of string” question. It really depends on the characters and the plot. But the thing I have come to see as true for every book over the years is that it is okay to make characters complex and flawed and not always able to do the right thing—and that keeping them apart is as important as getting them together.

What are you working on now?

Several things—as seems to be the case these days. I’m writing the screenplay for the film version of Me Before You, and I’m doing the final edits for my next book, which will be out in the United States in summer 2014. It’s a book about five very different characters—a single mother, a disgraced dotcom tycoon, a math prodigy child, a bullied teenager, and a dog called Norman—who end up on a road trip together.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  1. At one point, the Kommandant asks Sophie if they can just “be two people” (p. 72). What did you make of this—did you ever find yourself sympathizing with the Kommandant or any of the German soldiers? Is there room for sympathy on both sides?

  2. Does Édouard’s portrait of Sophie capture who she already was or who she had the potential to become?

  3. Before you knew the truth about Liliane Béthune, how did you feel about the treatment she received at the hands of the other villagers?

  4. Sophie strikes a deal with the Kommandant in hopes that he, in turn, will reunite her with Édouard. Would you be willing to make a similar trade? Would most men appreciate Sophie’s sacrifice?

  5. Unlike Hélène, Aurélien angrily condemns Sophie’s relationship with the Kommandant. Why do you think Aurélien reacted as he did?

  6. Have you ever experienced real hunger? If you were a French villager in St. Péronne, how far might you go in order to feed yourself and your loved ones?

  7. How did you think Sophie’s story would end? Were you surprised by what Liv uncovered?

  8. When Liv takes a group of underprivileged students on a tour of Conaghy Securities, most of them had never considered architecture as an art form. Why is this type of cultural exposure important for young people of all backgrounds?

  9. Liv feels that she cannot go on without the portrait of Sophie—it is that important to her. Do you think a material object should hold such significance? Have you ever loved a piece of art or another object so much that you couldn’t bear to part with it?

  10. Do you think the present-day Lefèvre family’s interest in the financial worth of The Girl You Left Behind—and their apparent lack of interest in its beauty—made their claim any less worthy?

  11. Why does Liv ultimately choose to try to save the painting rather than her home? What would you have done in her position?

  12. Is Paul right to fear that Liv would eventually resent him for the loss of the painting?

  13. In general, if a stolen artwork is legally acquired by its current owner, whose claim is more legitimate: the new owner or the original owner and his or her descendants? Should there be a statute of limitations? What if the current owner is a museum?