Monday, 29 October 2012

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jojo Moyes is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers. I was first introduced to her last year at Shoreditch House Literary salon in London, where Damian Barr spoke highly of her writing. I enjoyed the excerpt Jojo herself read from The Last Letter from Your Lover, and immediately wanted to read the book.

The Girl You Left Behind is the third novel which I’ve read by Moyes, and it, like the others, is well written, well plotted and beautifully constructed.

The Girl You Left Behind is a tale of two women, living nearly hundred years apart, yet whose lives are strongly connected to one another.

During the first World War, Sophie lives in a small village in Northern France, which is under German occupation. She runs a restaurant with her sister and her three children, trying to stay sane and alive while the war rages on her doorstep, and the German soldiers terrorise the locals and requisition all but the floorboards from the small establishment. Both of the sisters’ husbands have left to fight in the war, and there is scant news of their fates.

Liv Halston is similarly trying to survive, but in present day London. After her famous architect husband’s death, she is struggling both emotionally and financially to carry on living in the glass house he designed.

While both Sophie and Liv are already struggling with their lot, something happens which makes their lives even more precarious and unpredictable. Both women try to do what is right, actions which change everything for the worse.

I loved the way Jojo Moyes played with the stories of these two women, and how she connected the two lives. I don’t want to say too much here, in fear of spoiling the book for new readers, but although in hindsight the link is obvious, I didn’t see it until I was supposed to. I also didn’t expect the ending; I was so wrapped up in both of the women’s stories, that  I didn’t have time to speculate – nor the inclination to guess – the conclusion.

I wish I’d found Jojo Moyes a lot sooner, but I must admit to disliking the cover designs of her books. They’re far, far too chicklit for me, whereas Moyes’ writing is so much more literary than chick.  On the other hand, having been late to discovering her, I now have a long Jojo Moyes backlist to enjoy.

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