I started reading The Girl You Left Behind last Thursday and finished it on Monday evening. It was quite a marathon considering the 500 pages, not to mention I also have a life!
I read the first fifty pages in a breath and I even mentioned the beautiful writing of this novel on my Facebook. And it was great writing for a while, but then…
So here is how the book is structured. There are two stories revolving around a painting, one story set in 1916, in a small village in France and the second story is set nowadays, in London.
The first story is absolutely amazing, from the way characters are built, to the emphasizing of fear and desperation of people living during the war. I especially liked the “humanizing” of the German commandant, the war seen through is eyes, how he was letting the villagers get away with breaking the law.
Then suddenly the story moved in Central London. I didn’t like Liv, the British character, but I am subjective, this has nothing to do with the writing skills of Jojo Moyes. I found Liv lazy and pitiful and she was obviously suffering from major depression, yet she was doing nothing about it.
Some details in the story didn’t make sense and that really really bugged me. I mean, when you barely manage to find 200 pounds for the Council Tax, you don’t go to a pub to Central London, to drink one glass of wine after another, then plan to take a taxi home. That would be something between 50 and 100, depending on how much you drink and you simply can’t afford that, if, like I said, you have to put so much effort in finding the 200 you need.
The love story between Liv and Paul seems forced, it doesn’t naturally flow like the one between Sophie and Edouard. I would have believed it more if they had met while he was investigating the case of the painting, the coincidence that he found out she had the painting after their first night together is so cheesy. The trial is too long and full of too many spectacular moments, it looks more like a trial in Ally McBeal, to be honest.
The Girl You Left Behind is inconsistent, in one word. At one point I thought it might be written by two different people. I read it that fast for the only reason that I wanted to see what happened to Sophie eventually and I tried really hard not to skip the modern story and move to the old one.
I don’t write reviews in general, unless I am asked to. But The Girl You left Behind drove me mad from all the reasons mentioned above and I had to express myself. The second story was unnecessary, if you ask me, Sophie, Edouard and the commandant could have stand by themselves without any problems.
I am not saying Jojo Moyes is not a good writer. She is a great writer but I believe she loved the story from 1916 better because she obviously gave it more time and thought. I appreciate that it was well documented, I like a writer that takes the effort to find small details about the setting of their story.
Why she failed to make me believe the second story is probably because she was on a deadline and she didn’t have the time. Just saying, but after all, no one asked me, right?