Spring break is great because I have time to read entire books and fully appreciate them, especially when it decides to snow ruining any ideas of being outside. The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes is one such book. Set between World War 1 France and present day England, the story focuses around a painting of a wife that was stolen after the war. Moyes put me directly into the war with the story of a woman whose artist husband is away fighting, leaving her to live with her sister and kids. She has a painting of herself done by her husband that reminds her of happier days. Over time some German soldiers demand her to cook them meals at the family hotel. The Kommandant is intrigued by the painting, and eventually she’s willing to give him anything if he’ll order that her husband be released from the prison camp. The next day she is taken from her home and thrown into a German truck.
Then the storyline shifts to a modern day British widow with the same painting in her bedroom. Boy was I mad when I didn’t have answers to what happened to the French woman, and I didn’t particularly care about this whiny British widow even if she had the painting. Things got interesting though when it was revealed that an investigation was underway to find this painting because it was stolen during the war (think Monuments Men). The book continues to spin the story of the court case, weaving in small details of the French woman, until a slam ending revealing the French woman’s fate and the owner of the painting.
Overall, the literary style was incredible. There were amazing descriptions and fine storytelling. Even though I was mad about the character and time shift, I recognize its cleverness. This book was one I just can’t let go of yet because of its writing style and storytelling.