Back when Modern Mrs. Darcy was thinking about recommending books to her readers based on what they liked, she did a test run on her website. I got my books in early and she made some recommendations to me. This was the last book in the list of recommendations that I had yet to read.
Genre: fiction/historical fiction
Length: 369 pages
Setting: France, 1917 and London, 2002
Summary: We start in France with Sophie and her sister, Helene, running Le Coq Rouge since their husbands are fighting the Germans and their parent are dead. Germans are occupying the town and rations are tight throughout the town. That changes a bit for the sisters when the new German Kommandant requires the women to feed some of his men. Some of the villagers now think the women are working for the Germans and relationships become strained in town. Sophie trades on a growing attraction for her on the part of the Kommandant to get reunited with her artist husband. She trades a painting of herself as a thank you. That painting is now found in Liv’s bedroom. Liv is still a mess after her husband died unexpectedly over a year ago. She finds herself attracted to Paul, an ex-cop who now works for a company that returns stolen art to its rightful owner. His newest case is centered on returning The Girl You Left Behind (the painting of Sophie). Liv and Paul come into conflict because Liv doesn’t want to give back the painting she feels is rightfully hers. In order to keep the painting, she researches the history of the painting’s provenance and we find out what happened to Sophie.
Final thoughts: An enjoyable and interesting read. I liked how it was told in two distinct time periods and voices. The best part was I loved both stories, so I was never skimming one to get back to the other. Both women stood up for their firm held beliefs, even in the face of society disagreeing with their choices. Ultimately, it worked out for them, but I was sure they had made the wrong decision all along the way. I was very glad we finished Sophie’s story, since we switch to Liv’s story when Sophie is sent from the town by the Germans. We we first switched to Liv’s point-of-view, it took a bit to figure out how the two lives were related. The connection was solid (if not what I was anticipating) and the ending was very satisfying. There are quite a few elements to this story that would make this an attractive book to many different kinds of readers – we get some historical, WWI fiction, there’s a bit of a mystery (who really owns the painting), and the romance between Liv and Paul. Lots of good stuff in the book!
Title comes from: Sophie’s husband painted her and that painting, called The Girl You Left Behind, was the tie between Liv and Sophie’s story.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #30 for the year, and a G in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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