The Girl You Left Behind

Author: 
Moyes, Jojo

A spellbinding love story of two women separated by a century but united in their determination to fight for what they love most

Jojo Moyes’s bestseller, Me Before You, catapulted her to wide critical acclaim and has struck a chord with readers everywhere. Moyes returns with another irresistible heartbreaker that asks, “Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?”

France, 1916:  Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie will risk everything—her family, her reputation, and her life—to see her husband again.

Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins for who its legitimate owner is—putting Liv’s belief in what is right to the ultimate test.

Like Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress and Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, The Girl You Left Behind is a breathtaking story of love, loss, and sacrifice told with Moyes’s signature ability to capture our hearts with every turn of the page. (From the publisher.)

Discussion Guide: 

1. At one point, the Kommandant asks Sophie if they can just “be two people” (p. 72). What did you make of this—did you ever find yourself sympathizing with the Kommandant or any of the German soldiers? Is there room for sympathy on both sides?

2. Does Edouard’s portrait of Sophie capture who she already was or who she had the potential to become?

3. Before you knew the truth about Liliane Bethune, how did you feel about the treatment she received at the hands of the other villagers?

4. Sophie strikes a deal with the Kommandant in hopes that he, in turn, will reunite her with Edouard. Would you be willing to make a similar trade? Would most men appreciate Sophie’s sacrifice?

5. Unlike Helene, Aurelien angrily condemns Sophie’s relationship with the Kommandant. Why do you think Aurelien reacted as he did?

6. Have you ever experienced real hunger? If you were a French villager in St. Peronne, how far might you go in order to feed yourself and your loved ones?

7. How did you think Sophie’s story would end? Were you surprised by what Liv uncovered?

8. When Liv takes a group of underprivileged students on a tour of Conaghy Securities, most of them had never considered architecture as an art form. Why is this type of cultural exposure important for young people of all backgrounds?

9. Liv feels that she cannot go on without the portrait of Sophie—it is that important to her. Do you think a material object should hold such significance? Have you ever loved a piece of art or another object so much that you couldn’t bear to part with it?

10. Do you think the present–day Lefevre family’s interest in the financial worth of The Girl You Left Behind—and their apparent lack of interest in its beauty—made their claim any less worthy?

11. Why does Liv ultimately choose to try to save the painting rather than her home? What would you have done in her position?

12. Is Paul right to fear that Liv would eventually resent him for the loss of the painting?

13. In general, if a stolen artwork is legally acquired by its current owner, whose claim is more legitimate: the new owner or the original owner and his or her descendants? Should there be a statute of limitations? What if the current owner is a museum?
(Questions issued by publisher.)