The Girl You Left Behind – Book Review

This is definitely one of the must read books to appear this year.  Books set in wartime all too frequently ignore what happens to those left behind when menfolk go off to fight.  Two stories collide in this one book – and both stories proved to be compulsive reading.

In 1916 artist Edouard Lefevre joins the French army. His wife Sophie is left to cope as best she can. When the German invaders arrive, the new Kommandant’s attention becomes fixed on Edouard’s portrait of Sophie.  Life is grim, with food and other necessities limited.  Collaboration becomes inevitable as families seek to survive.  Then comes a hint that Edouard is still alive? What choice will Sophie make?  And what happens to her portrait?  Many years later, Liv is given that same portrait by her new husband, just before he dies suddenly. 

Accidentally pictured in a magazine, the portrait comes to the attention of Paul McCafferty, an art historian who traces art works lost in wars for a living.  He falls in love with Liv – but finds his relationship with her affected by the fact that he is trying to ensure the painting returns to long lost relatives of Edouard Lefevre.  The resultant court case is a test of everyone’s resolve and highlights the conflicting problems caused by wartime seizures. Just who has the right of ownership? 

An intriguing and fascinating ending, with a nice twist in the tail. It is an enthralling plot, which really keeps your attention throughout.  Once started, it is hard to stop reading until the very last page is reached.  A good read, which also makes you think about the consequences of actions down the centuries.