Monday, October 21, 2013

Why I Didn't Finish The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (Yet)

Let me preface this entire post by saying this: the first part of The Girl You Left Behind is phenomenal. I have fallen entirely into Moyes's war-torn setting, a tiny French town occupied by German soldiers. The characters fairly jump off the page: Sophie Lefevre, narrator and lead heroine, her sister Helene, the children, the other townspeople, Herr Kommandant and the German soldiers. Moyes writes beautifully, a master of the craft leading her readers bit by bit into her created world.

I cared far too deeply for the characters; I think that was the beginning of my being undone by this novel. I should probably also mention here that historical fiction, and in particular war-time novels, are by far my least favorite genre. I'll blame this on my mom: she could never enjoy a war novel or movie. Along with her fear of birds (although we've both come a long way on that one), she passed on to me a lack of ability to read or view fictional accounts of war. The list of things I've abandoned or avoided as a result are long:

  • Saving Private Ryan (I walked out of the theater; I later refused to view it in junior year history in high school and took an alternate assignment.)
  • The Sandcastle Girls by Christ Bohjalian (He is one of my favorite authors, and this was a wonderfully written book I couldn't continue reading because of the descriptions of the Armenian genocide -- and his newest book is set during World War II, so I most likely won't read it either, although I'm sure The Light in the Ruins is every bit as fantastic as his other work.)
  • Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear (I read several of the books in this series before I simply couldn't handle the period of time after WWI when the novels are set.)
  • The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Despite some of the most glowing reviews out there, I have not been able to force myself to pick up this award-winning book set during the war in Iraq).
The list could probably go on. But you get the idea. Wonderful, award-winning movies and books simply fall off my radar if war is part of the story.

When Moyes wrote characters I loved, and set her novel during a world war, bad things were bound to ensue for them, no? I knew this, yet I hoped against it. A third of the way into the novel, I had to stop reading. Although it was a fantastically-written book, it and I simply did not agree with one another. 

My hope is that someday I can overcome this (somewhat crippling, when it comes to excellent fiction) aversion. Until then, I'll leave the reading of books like The Girl You Left Behind to others. For some glowing reviews from readers who finished Moyes's novel, please click below:


  1. Love the authenticity of this "review"--which speaks to the tremendous power of "story." Thank you for being vulnerable in exposing this side of your self.

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