From what I can gather, The Girl You Left Behind is meant to be heartbreaking. Jo Jo Moyes successfully broke my heart with her 2012 drama Me Before You. That one felt genuine, so I’m not too ashamed to admit that I was weeping in my cubicle as concluded the audio version. In The Girl You Left Behind, though, Moyes shamelessly cheats in her subpar efforts to tug at the heartstrings. Instead of systematically crafting a tearjerker, Moyes resorts to settings and scenarios that are depressing in and of themselves. Thus, she creates a generic tale of concentration camp woe, the result being one of the most boring books that I have ever read. I was relieved when characters died, as it harkened the approach of the end.
Nazis and concentration camps are certainly sad, but that does not mean it’s ok to neglect the plot to such an extent that I was actually rooting for Nazi victory as a means to an end. The title refers to a painting that a famous painter made of his wife back in the day. It was all she had left of him when he was shipped off to war, and then some Nazi fell in love with said painting. At this point, her husband had been missing for a while (maybe at a concentration camp, but I don’t remember, nor do I particularly care), so the wife offers the Nazi some sex and the painting in exchange for his services in locating her husband. I’m not quite sure why she felt compelled to sleep with him, as the guy seemed enamored enough with the painting that it alone would have sufficed. He was pretty nice to her and it wasn’t a rape, but it was portrayed as something close to a rape even though she walked to his house and threw herself at him. Anyways, this plot moves back and forth with a current day situation, in which another lady has found herself with this painting, and descendants of the original lady are suing over its return.
The characters are lackluster to a degree in which I can’t even remember their names. The plots, although related, are boring and lack intrigue. World War II tales can be hit or miss, but it can be done well. Read Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller, now that’s a compelling story with interconnecting plots. Moyes’ effort is essentially nonexistent when compared to Picoult’s story.
This is depressing because I had fully intended to read Moyes’ other novels after completing Me Before You, and now I will never read another one of her books again. Maybe I didn’t give it an entirely fair shake, as I did zone out repeatedly. Then again, the fact that I drifted in and out of consciousness tells me that this was not worth the effort.