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The Girl You Left Behind
Cover of The Girl You Left Behind
The Girl You Left Behind
A Novel
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From the author of Me Before You, Still Me, and The Peacock Emporium, a sweeping bestseller of love and loss, deftly weaving two journeys from World War I France to present day London.
Paris, World War I. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born.

Almost a century later in London, Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait's true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv's world is turned upside all over again.
From the author of Me Before You, Still Me, and The Peacock Emporium, a sweeping bestseller of love and loss, deftly weaving two journeys from World War I France to present day London.
Paris, World War I. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait—painted by her artist husband—a dangerous obsession is born.

Almost a century later in London, Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait's true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv's world is turned upside all over again.
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    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This book owes a great deal to Helen McPhail's excellent book The Long Silence: Civilian Life Under the German Occupation of Northern France, 1914–1918, about a largely unrecorded (at least in this country) corner of First World War history.

    I would also like to thank Jeremy Scott, partner at Lipman Karas, for his generous expert help on the issue of restitution, and for answering my many questions with patience. I have had to tweak certain legal points and procedures for the sake of the plot, and any errors or deviations from actual practice are, of course, my own.

    Thanks to my publishers at Pamela Dorman Books, most pertinently Pamela Dorman, but also Clare Ferraro, Carolyn Coleburn, Nancy Sheppard, Julie Miesionczek, Kiki Koroshetz, Louise Braverman, Rebecca Lang, Meredith Burks, Roseanne Serra, Kathryn Court, Dick Heffernan, and Norman Lidofsky, as well as the whole team at Penguin USA. I'm very grateful to the various tour buddies who've helped me on my way around the United States, most notably Alex McIntyre and Claudia Sloan, Bob Wilkins, and Larry Lewis. Thanks also to the home team at Penguin UK, especially Louise Moore, Mari Evans, Clare Bowron, Katya Shipster, Elizabeth Smith, Celine Kelly, Viviane Basset, Raewyn Davies, Rob Leyland, and Hazel Orme. Thank you to Guy Sanders for research help beyond the call of duty.

    Thank you to all at Curtis Brown, most especially my agent, Sheila Crowley, but also including Jonny Geller, Katie McGowan, Jess Cooper, Tally Garner, Sam Greenwood, Sven Van Damme, Alice Lutyens, Sophie Harris, and Rebecca Ritchie.

    In no particular order, I also wish to thank Steve Doherty, Drew Hazell, Damian Barr, Alison Singh Gee, Chris Luckley, my writing "family" at Writersblock, and the astonishingly supportive writers of Twitter. Too many to mention here.

    Most thanks, as ever, to Jim Moyes, and Lizzie and Brian Sanders, and to my family, Saskia, Harry, and Lockie—and to Charles Arthur, proofreader, plot tweaker, and long-suffering writers' ear. Now you know what it's like. . . .

    PART ONE

    1

    ST. PÉRONNE

    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."

    "Sophie. Wake up."

    I could taste that cheese. I was going to have a mouthful of Reblochon, smear it on a hunk of that warm bread, then pop a grape into my mouth. I could already taste the intense sweetness, smell the rich aroma.

    But there it was, my sister's hand on my wrist, stopping me. The plates were disappearing, the scents fading. I reached out to them but they began to pop, like soap bubbles.

    "Sophie."

    "What?"

    "They have Aurélien!"

    I turned onto my side and blinked. My sister was wearing a cotton bonnet, as I was, to keep warm. Her face, even in the feeble light of her candle, was leached of color, her eyes wide with shock. "They have Aurélien. Downstairs."

    My mind began to clear. From below us came the sound of men shouting, their voices bouncing off the stone courtyard, the hens squawking in their coop. In the thick dark, the air vibrated with some terrible purpose. I sat upright in bed, dragging my gown around me, struggling to light the candle on my bedside table.

    I stumbled past her to the window and stared down into the courtyard at the soldiers, illuminated by the...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 1, 2013
    Moyes’s enchanting latest (after Me Before You) entwines two love stories set 90 years apart, connected by a painting called The Girl You Left Behind. In 1916, 22-year-old Sophie Lefèvre struggles against a new German commandant in her occupied village in northern France. Trying to keep her family safe and their restaurant open while her and her sister’s husbands are away, Sophie makes greater and greater sacrifices as her living conditions grow more spartan. But when things reach their lowest, she must decide whether to gamble everything on the German commandant’s powerful fascination with her husband’s portrait of her. Jumping ahead to London in 2006, the story turns to 32-year-old Liv Halston, whose architect husband David bought Sophie’s painting for Liv shortly before he died in an accident. Still deep in the throes of grief four years after his death, Liv now faces eviction from the beautiful, heavily taxed house he built. But an unlikely reunion with a former classmate and the unexpected entrance of a new man, Paul, into Liv’s life make her feel better than she has since David died—until a restitution company tries to claim The Girl You Left Behind. An unfortunate coincidence twists the knife deeper, and Liv is forced to fight tooth and nail for what she has come to love most in the world. Lovely and wry, Moyes’s newest is captivating and bittersweet.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2013
    The newest novel by Moyes (Me Before You, 2012, etc.) shares its title with a fictional painting that serves as catalyst in linking two loves stories, one set in occupied France during World War I, the other in 21st-century London. In a French village in 1916, Sophie is helping the family while her husband, edouard, an artist who studied with Matisse, is off fighting. Sophie's pluck in standing up to the new German kommandant in the village draws his interest. An art lover, he also notices edouard's portrait of Sophie, which captures her essence (and edouard's adoration). Arranging to dine regularly at Sophie's inn with his men, he begins a cat-and-mouse courtship. She resists. But learning that edouard is being held in a particularly harsh "reprisal" camp, she must decide what she will sacrifice for edouard's freedom. The rich portrayals of Sophie, her family and neighbors hauntingly capture wartime's gray morality. Cut to 2006 and a different moral puzzle. Thirty-two-year-old widow Liv has been struggling financially and emotionally since her husband David's sudden death. She meets Paul in a bar after her purse is stolen. The divorced father is the first man she's been drawn to since she was widowed. They spend a glorious night together, but after noticing edouard's portrait of Sophie on Liv's wall, he rushes away with no explanation. In fact, Paul is as smitten as Liv, but his career is finding and returning stolen art to the rightful owners. Usually the artwork was confiscated by Germans during World War II, not WWI, but edouard's descendants recently hired him to find this very painting. Liv is not about to part with it; David bought it on their honeymoon because the portrait reminded him of Liv. In love, Liv and Paul soon find themselves on opposite sides of a legal battle. While Liv's more pedestrian story is less romantic than Sophie's and far less nuanced, Moyes is a born storyteller who makes it impossible not to care about her heroines.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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