I am delighted to be able to offer a copy of the new Jojo Moyes book, THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND as well as her hit ME BEFORE YOU to one lucky reader!
Moyes returns with another spellbinding and irresistible heartbreaker of love and sacrifice.
In the small French town of St. Péronne, Sophie Lefèvre is struggling under the German occupation. It is 1916, and with her husband (and most other men) fighting at the front, she is barely keeping the family restaurant—Le Coq Rouge—afloat under the strict and unforgiving rationing. To combat the pain of a starving belly and despite the fact that it draws unwanted attention to her family, Sophie defiantly keeps the portrait her artist husband painted of her up on the wall. Seeing it transports her back to their lives in Paris—full of good food and joie de vivre. When the painting catches the eye of the new Kommandant, Sophie becomes the object of his obsession. As he spends more time at Le Coq Rouge, Sophie is drawn into a dangerous bargain with the German officer as she tries to protect those she loves the most.
Almost a century later, Liv Halston is living under the shadow of her young husband’s sudden death and a growing debt. She lives in the gorgeous flat he designed for them, but her lack of a steady job means she can no longer afford to keep the show place that should have been her home forever. Her prized possession, given to her by her husband as a wedding present, is the same portrait that hung on Sophie’s wall in 1916. Enter Paul McCafferty; when Liv meets him during a chance encounter, she starts to feel like life may have something in store for her yet. But Paul’s work lies in the restitution of art lost and the spoils of war. In a cruel twist, his next case: the portrait of Sophie that Liv loves most in all the world. For Liv, her belief in what is right will be put to the ultimate test.
Q&A with Jojo Moyes
author of THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND
THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, though a love story, features strong female relationships as well. What made you want to write about the connections that can form between women? If Liv and Sophie had lived in the same time, do you think they would have been friends?
My female friendships are so important to me; I honestly don’t know how women survive without them. I get very bored of reading manufactured narratives that pit women against women; the working mums vs. stay at homes, old vs. young, the ‘evil’ woman boss who is trying to keep younger women down—I don’t recognise these images—most women I know are actually pretty supportive of each other. So I liked having relationships in this book where women are supportive of each other, even if their relationships are often complex and changing. To me that reflects real life.
And yes, I think that Sophie and Liv might have been friends—I think through her sister’s grief, Sophie might have understood Liv’s own. And both knew what it was like to utterly adore your husband.
The reclamation of art taken during wartime is central to the plot. How did you first encounter this topic and what kind of research did you do to learn more about it?
I was briefly the arts correspondent for The Independent newspaper in London, so I knew a bit about the legal issues. But I read an amazing news story about a young woman reporter who had been asked to mind a huge collection of stolen Nazi artwork, and was given a very valuable stolen Cranach as a ‘thank you.’ Many decades later when it came up for auction it was recognised and became the subject of a claim.
It would seem the issue of returning stolen art is clear-cut, but Liv finds herself trying to keep a painting that may have been ill-gotten. Is there room for sympathy on both sides?
Without wanting to diminish in any way the suffering of those who lost their precious belongings, I think there is. The more time that goes by, the more complicated the issue becomes, as people buy and sell in good faith, not knowing the painting’s tainted past. These things are also complicated when great legal industries spring up around them, as seems to have happened in the case of stolen artwork.
You create a vivid sense of French life under the German Occupation in WWI. Did you know much about this period prior to writing the novel?
No I didn’t, but the more research I did, the more fascinated I became by it. I knew about the terrible losses suffered in northern France during the first world war, but I knew little about life away from the Western Front, and the fact that in a great swathe of northern France Belgian and French people had their homes and belongings requisitioned in such a widespread and systematic way.
Sophie and Liv exist a century apart, but their lives are strongly connected, making the past feel very much alive in your story. Do you feel a strong link to the past or a particular historic figure?
That’s an interesting question. I’m not sure I do. I’m always amazed when people do past life regression and say they turned out to be Cleopatra or Florence Nightingale... I think I’d be the anonymous girl who ran the fruit stall near the river, or kept the accounts in the hat shop. But I do like to look at the lives of particularly brave women in history though, undercover women agents, in wartime or Amelia Earhart, say, and try to use their actions to make me braver in my everyday life, like standing up to a traffic warden....
What do you hope readers will take away from THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND?
I hope they’ll be transported into a time and place they didn’t know about. And I hope that they will put themselves in the place of Sophie and Liv, and ask: what would I do in their shoes? I love writing strong, resourceful female characters, and Sophie was one of my favourites, so I hope some women might be a little bit inspired too. Mostly I simply hope that they will feel glad they picked up the book and took the journey with me.
I can’t wait to read this new book - I loved ME BEFORE YOU! Here’s my review:
Louisa has lived in a small English village her whole life, and even though she's in her 20's she has no plans on leaving. She loses her job when the cafe where she works closes, and the employment office in town offers her up one job more awful than the next, topped by their final offer; caretaker for a quadriplegic for six months. The money is very good, and her family relies on her income to get by, so after being assured she won't have to wipe anyone’s bottom, she grudgingly agrees to the job.
Her new boss is a much younger man than she expected. Will comes from money, but was a very successful businessman prior to his accident, the type that traveled worldwide and lived life to the fullest. Struck by a car, he is in constant pain and needs constant care. He has someone to do the physical stuff for him; Louisa is there to be more of a companion for him. But he's nasty and angry and she doesn't know how to reach him.
Eventually she does reach him, and she’s determined to help him find a way to enjoy his life to the best of her ability, but will that be enough? Will wants to die, and his parents have reluctantly agreed to assist him, provided he give them six months. Once Louisa learns this, she becomes more determined than ever to save him, falling in love with him along the way. What could have been a maudlin story, or an overly sweet one, is instead a cataclysmic love story that just resonates; this is a remarkable book.
If you’d like to win these books, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with "Jojo Moyes" as the subject. Make sure to include your name and mailing address in the US only. This is a quick contest so your odds of winning are really good - if you enter by August 23, 2013. Good luck!