7 reviews

The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes

Published: 2013-08-20
Hardcover : 384 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 7 members
From the New York Times?bestselling author of Me Before You, a spellbinding love story of two women separated by a century but united in their determination to fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has ...
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From the New York Times?bestselling author of Me Before You, a spellbinding love story of two women separated by a century but united in their determination to fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has struck a chord with readers everywhere. ?Hopelessly and hopefully romantic” (Chicago Tribune), Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker that asks, ?Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?”

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 World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything?her family, her reputation, and her life?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 for who its legitimate owner is?putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Like Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress and Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, The Girl You Left Behind is a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with Moyes’s signature ability to capture our hearts with every turn of the page.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.




October 1916

I was dreaming of food. Crisp baguettes, the flesh of the bread a virginal white, still steaming from the oven, and ripe cheese, its borders creeping toward the edge of the plate. Grapes and plums, stacked high in bowls, dusky and fragrant, their scent filling the air. I was about to reach out and take one, when my sister stopped me. “Get off,” I murmured. “I’m hungry.” ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

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?

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

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

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?

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

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?

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

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?

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?

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?

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

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

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?

From the publisher

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

From the publisher

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Beth O. (see profile) 09/12/16

  "The Girl you Left Behind"by Veronica P. (see profile) 06/13/14

I did not like this book as much as Me Before You.

  "The girl you left behind"by Diane S. (see profile) 04/19/14

This book was difficult to put down. I read it cover to cover in two sittings.

  "The Girl you left behind"by Jeannette F. (see profile) 04/18/14

The book was great ! Very well written.

by Debby S. (see profile) 04/15/14

  "The Girl You Left Behind"by Barbara M. (see profile) 11/30/13

Wonderful story....interesting with the two different realms of time coming together to explain what happened to the families. There were times the book left me confused in regards to some o... (read more)

  "AMAZING!"by Kristi F. (see profile) 08/29/13

Jojo, this was so so FABULOUS! I loved this story; the mystery, the relationships, characters, the writing....well I loved everything. You have to read this right away because I said so and because you... (read more)

  "Another hit by Moyes"by Dini B. (see profile) 08/07/13

I received an Advance Reader Copy through netgalley.com. The US version will be released August 20, 2013.

I first discovered the talent of Jojo Moyes when I read Me Before You (5*). My n

... (read more)

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