This is the story of a painting with a past. The Girl You Left Behind is this painting, a portrait of Sophie by her husband, who has been sent to fight for France during the first World War. While he is away, Sophie is living with her sister, Helene, helping her run a small hotel in a tiny town outside Paris. This town is now occupied by the Germans who are using the hotel for their nightly fare.
Fast forward to the current day and this same painting is owned by Liv, who lost her husband only four years ago and is still immobilized by this loss. The only thing keeping her going is the hope and strength in the eyes of the woman in the portrait. Circumstances call into question the origin of the painting and if Liv can be the rightful owner of this precious portrait. The only thing that can help Liv is to solve the mystery of the history of this painting and the actual events in the lives of the people surrounding it.
While this story is hard to read because of all the sadness – a story about war cannot be otherwise — but it is also hard to put down because the main characters are so inspiring in their sense of hope and strength. It is also so well-written that you cannot help getting personally invested in both stories, especially as they are sewn together.
I highly recommend this book, especially for those who love historical fiction as I do!