Ever since I saw this book in an ebook shop online, I knew I wanted to have the book.The story is set in two timelines, in German-occupied France during the First World War (actually the main reason why I wanted to read it), and in modern-day London.
Sophie Lefevre lives in an inn during the First World War. Together with her sister Helene, they struggle to make ends meet. Food was rationed, the Germans were ruthless and imposed curfews. With both of their husbands in the war, the young women, together with their younger brother and children, are always gripped by fear.
Married to a painter, Sophie Lefevre has been given a valuable gift, a portrait of herself, painted by her husband, Edouard. However, when the Germans requisition the inn Sophie and Helene currentlly run, the commandant's eye was caught by the painting, and is captivated by Sophie as well. With her husband missing, and with the German officer's growing obsession over her deepens, Sophie knows that risks would have to be taken to be able to see her husband again.
Almost a century later, in London, in the year 2006, widow Liv Halston lives in a house which was designed by her late husband David, who died suddenly (it wasn't stated in the story). She eventually finds out about the background of the portrait that hung in their home, given by David before he died. The true owners of the painting fought to have the painting back into their family, as the painting was one of those many stolen by Germans during the war. This puts everything Liv believed in into the ultimate test, and she fights for the painting to remain in her home.
My review so far:
Apart from the time period in Sophie's timeline, what gripped me was Jojo Moyes' way of making you feel like you were an inhabitant of the village where Sophie and Helene lived. I almost felt like I was a person who witnessed everything that happened, the struggle of the villagers to survive and to remain optimistic. At that time, the Germans took what they wanted, and the people gave in, since they were afraid to suffer the consequences. I felt as if I had to eat black bread and whatever meagre rations Sophie, Helene, and their family had to live on.
Part of Sophie's story was told in flashbacks, making the reader see the change in Sophie--the shy, clog wearing shop girl into a woman who had to manage an inn after her father passed away. I really felt for her, because she had to keep up her courage, in order for her family to survive. It's not easy having a husband fighting in a war.
The modern day storyline was told in the same precise manner--however, it made me feel a little impatient with Liv Halston. Then again, I haven't been married, and so, I wouldn't be in a position to be a bit irked with her, especially when she's had lovely memories of David, and living in a house he designed would probably make me want to cling on to them as much as I can.
I've only got to the part where Sophie's family traced the painting's whereabouts. I'll finish the story, and will keep you updated!