Honeymoon in Paris: A Novella by Jojo Moyes

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Title:  Honeymoon in Paris: A Novella

Author: Jojo Moyes

First published: August 16th 2012, Penguin

Edition: Ebook, 75 pages

Genre: Romance

Age group: Adult

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

Honeymoon in Paris is a short prequel to Jojo Moyes’ novel The Girl You Left Behind and takes place 4 years before its events. In the foreground are two newlywed couples, spending their honeymoons in Paris. These characters are well familiar to me, as I read the main novel first, so I know their life stories. First it’s Sophie and Edouard getting used to their married life in Paris of 1912. Soon they discover that it’s not always a bed of roses, as the problems come to arise. Most of all they have to deal with their low financial savings, as Edouard being an artist used to give his paintings away to his friends without taking money for it. And it’s actually Sophie who takes matters into her hands. But this is just a minor thing as she can’t help being worried and uncomfortable with Edouard’s too many female acquaintances. Edouard’s paintings mostly depict very blunt images of beautifully emancipated women in little to no clothes on. And what bothers Sophie the most is the fact that Edouard still maintains contact with all of his models even after the marriage. Sophie knows he had intimate relationships with most of them, and she can’t be unsure if she would be enough for him. Especially considering that she was once his model, too. She loves Edouard dearly, and though he keeps assuring her he feels the same way, Sophie’s all out of sorts.

A century later in 2006 just married Liv Halston spends her honeymoon in Paris all alone while her new husband David is constantly on business meetings. Liv is sad and angry, as she didn’t imagine their five days getaway quite like that. She feels lonely and uncomfortable going sightseeing all over Paris alone, until she stumbles on a painting at the Musee d’Orsay of a red-haired woman depicted in some moment of tension and displeasure. It’s title reads ‘Wife, out of sorts’, and Liv realizes that she strangely resembles this woman. Unexpectedly, she’s become a wife out of sorts,too. She doesn’t want to be or to feel like this, so maybe it’s time for her to rethink the marriage she found herself in.

Both couples while spending very unfortunate honeymoons come to realize at the same time the true meaning of marriage and it’s nature. There’s definitely love between them, but it’s not only that. Sometimes it’s also about compromise, understanding and balance. It takes the four of them some time to come to it, but in the end their honeymoons really take on the right path.

The story is very short yet very precise to its theme. Just like The Girl You Left Behind it switches from 1912 to 2006 in a matter of a chapter, but what really impressed me is the fact, that aside time settings there’s nothing much different about the romantic relationships. Love is always the same just as the conflicts are. And I came to a realization that all of them are mostly the works of mind, they are the very outcomes of stubbornness or unwillingness to compromise. These factors ruin a lot of marriages nowadays, and it’s actually great that in this novel they are solved.

Once again I find the 1912 story more enjoyable than that of 2006, maybe it’s just that it was the time of the Belle Epoque or just the way Paris and people were described. Liv and David’s story seems a bit too present, lacking the necessary charm and romanticism.

All in all, I liked the story, it was a great addition to the main novel, but I’m glad I read it second. It just gave finishing touches to The Girl You Left Behind, telling more about the character’s earlier lives. But I also consider this story an optional read, the main book is more epic and charming, embracing a grander story. Jojo Moyes, though, has become my new favorite author.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

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Title: The Girl You Left Behind

Author: Jojo Moyes

First published: September 26th 2012, Penguin

Edition: ebook, 430 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Age group: Adult

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Girl You Left Behind

In 1916 the small French town of St. Péronne is occupied by German soldiers. One of its citizens, young Sophie Lefevre hasn’t seen her husband Edouard since his leaving for the Front 2 years ago. Sophie and her sister Helene’s life now is centered around their family’s hotel, where they run a bar for the neighbors left, mostly women, elderly people and kids.

The only thing Sophie has left of her husband, which is very dear to both of them, is Sophie’s portrait, painted by Edouard himself, an underrated artist that he is. The painting shows Sophie in bright and vivid colors, both being a true copy of her image, yet giving her some intriguing light, her gaze magnetic and penetrating.

Sophie doesn’t want to hide the portrait from the people coming to the bar, she feels it giving her strength to go on, reminds her of the girl she used to be when she and Edouard just married. She is not the only one to admire it, though. The local German Kommandant, who enforces her to cook dinner for him and his people every evening, can’t seem to be able to pry his eyes away from it.

Only his admiration doesn’t stop with the painting as he favors Sophie too, making her the main theme of the town’s talk.

Like many women in her town, Sophie hasn’t had a word from her husband for months, but the way the Kommandant acts with her, makes her believe he is a man of his word, the one who will help the artist, whose work he loves so much, reunite with his wife.

The risk that Sophie takes, making a deal with the Kommandant, not only ruins her reputation and love of her family for her, but is believed to cost her her life.

In London of 2006 Liv Halston has been coping with the death of her husband for 4 years. The great architecture that he was, he has left a lot of his works as a reminder of him, one of them being the highly innovative Glass House Liv still lives in. But the thing she treasures the most is the gift David bought her during their honeymoon in Spain. The portrait of The Girl You Left Behind, hung on the wall of her bedroom, is both a reminder of happier times and the source of strength for Liv to go on.

Having to struggle both emotionally and financially, Liv is shocked when she learned that the man, with whom she might have wanted to move on from David, actually works for the organization that traces and returns works of art to their owners. And the claim is that The Girl You Left Behind was actually stolen during World War I from the artist’s family.

Liv finds herself unable to simply pass the portrait, it’s the only thing left from her husband that helped her to survive, besides she feels a strange emotional connection to the girl in the painting, Liv’s mission is now not only to prove her legal ownership of the work of art, but also to find out what has become of the girl.

The Girl You Left Behind is the second book by Jojo Moyes that I’ve read, the first one being Me Before You. And what I’ve learned about her works is that Moyes is not the type of author to write about superficial and basically unimportant things. Quite the contrary, she deals with serious and sometimes controversial themes, making gripping stories of them, ones that make you think and emotionally connect to.

The Girl You Left Behind, being a historical fiction on the forefront, picturing the hardships of the War, people’s suffers and deaths, is also a moving story about survival, love and loyalty. It’s not about some ideal people, those to take life as it is. It’s about two women, who lived in absolutely different settings and times, yet those to never give up, those to take risks and fight till the end, even if deep in their hearts they don’t believe in the possible happy ending.

The story of Sophie strikes with its authenticity. The part of the story is written in a form of Sophie’s diary where she tells about her life in an occupied town, the people she is surrounded with, her family’s struggle to survive in constant hunger. But mostly she writes about her husband. She misses him a lot and is afraid to never see him again.

The thing she does hoping to save Edouard, is probably very naive and risky, but I couldn’t find it in me to believe she deserved all the sufferings she had to deal with later. Yes, she did the unthinkable, and she believed the word of an enemy, but throughout the whole story I hoped that everything would turn out good for her, that she would find her happily-ever-after. Well, though it’s not much learned about her fate in the end, I was delighted that she survived and was reunited with her love.

Liv’s story is not that tragic as Sophie’s, though in the beginning it’s not happy either. In a way, I found these to heroines to have something in common. They both are proud, straightforward and determined. If Sophie’s name was tarnished back in 1916, that even her family couldn’t do much about it, I’m glad that even many years later Liv found out that at least it was not for nothing.

Liv’s story is more of the legal case, of her fighting with Edouard Lefevre’s descendants (who apparently don’t care much about the painting itself but its price), but she, too, finds her happy ending.

The way the story kept turning from 1916 to the present day, giving bit by bit of both Sophie’s and Liv’s stories, made it an anxious and impressive read for me. I love Jojo Moyes writing, the unique atmosphere she creates in her stories, you feel being totally transferred into their worlds. And though the year has just started I’m already sure that The Girl You Left Behind will be one of my most favorite books in 2013.