Monday, February 2, 2015

'The Girl You Left Behind': Jojo Moyes Knows How to Play Me Like a Fiddle

After a hefty book like "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, I thought I would reward myself with a light Jojo Moyes book, so when I saw "The Girl You Left Behind" actually on the library shelf (Jojo Moyes books are perpetually checked out), I did a happy dance right in the M aisle.     What I didn't realize was that the story line in "The Girl You Left Behind" revolves around WWI and art reparations due to German soldiers' fine arts confiscations during WWI and WWII.  Another war time book wasn't really what I wanted, but Moyes knows totally how to play with my heart and make me plow through her fiction.  Although her writing isn't anything like Doerr's lyrical writing that feels more like poetry than prose, Moyes gives a straightforward narrative of two strong female characters, Sophie Lefevre (from the WWI storyline), and Liv Halston (from the current day storyline).

I was instantly captivated by the 1916, small town, France storyline centered around Sophie Lefevre and her passionate artist husband. Eduoard intoxicates her with his bear-like, rowdy presence and asks to paint her.  After a failed attempt to truly capture her on the canvas, she returns to his studio determined to sit for him.  The result is a stunning painting which shows the inner light of Sophie - erotic, honest, and absolutely beautiful.  They also end up falling deeply in love and getting married.

When Eduoard is sent to the front line of WWI, Sophie and her sister are forced to entertain German soldiers after their small French time is occupied, and the German Kommandant becomes obsessed with both the painting and with Sophie.  Sophie uses his affections to her advantage to help others in her town, and even further to try and reunite with her husband.

In the midst of Sophie's treacherous wartime story, Moyes introduces the modern day storyline of Liv Halston, a recent young widow whose husband acquired Sophie's painting while helping a woman on their honeymoon.  Her brilliant architect husband's death has left Liv devastated, lonely and lifeless and her only happiness seems to come from her painting of Sophie.  When she meets the handsome and overly helpful, ex-police officer, Paul McCafferty, it seems as if she can love again until she finds out that Paul is an art recovery officer who is actually seeking to return Sophie's painting with members of the Lefevre family who know it's worth a fortune.

Even though I loved the piecing together of the entire history of the painting (much like the storyline in the book "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue"), I must admit that I wasn't as captivated with the Liv Halston storyline as I was with Sophie's.  There were times where I actually rolled my eyes at Liv and her tirades about her beloved painting.  When she started to push Paul away, I am pretty sure my eye rolling increased, BUT . . . JoJo Moyes brought me back into her emotional tug of war by the end of the book where I most definitely cried as both story lines wrapped up - both with trials (Sophie's didn't take place in the courtroom like Liv's) for their female protagonists.  I cheered, openly wept and read with rigorous speed to see how everything turned out.

Moyes knows how to play with her readers, and just like her books "One Plus One" and "Me Before You", the emotional upheaval will leave you a bit breathless and wanting another helping of her writing after you read the last page.  Be forewarned.  You will get addicted to JoJo Moyes; her books are too good not to, though, so just enjoy being played like a fiddle.

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