The Girl You Left Behind has dual plots that, as expected, intersect further into the story. The book begins in World War I France with a woman, Sophie, and her family, who are trying to keep the family business running while the men are at the front. The town is occupied by Germans, and the commander finds himself quite taken by Sophie's charms and even more intoxicated by a portrait that her husband had painted of her. It is this painting that becomes the link between two tales. Almost a century later, the story recommences in England where the portrait hangs in the home of another woman, Liv. A widow, Liv remains in the home she shared with her architect husband, trying to reconstruct her life after his death. The portrait becomes the subject of a requisition investigation, with Liv fighting the claim that she possesses stolen artwork.
From what I knew about the author from having read Me Before You, was that this would likely be a compelling read (it was), a quick story (yep, that too), and probably fairly depressing (sort of, but it gets better!). What was different about this story was the ending. I won't spoil anything, but I'll just tell you that things do end well for the characters involved. The novel might be gloomy, but there are more patches of light in this one, so as not to leave the reader utterly depressed.
This book would be easy to recommend. It's a great book for the common reader, an easy read and a good story. This is not an intellectual endeavor, but I suspect most people who pick this novel up would not be looking for or expecting that facet. However, I would not put this on a Nicolas Sparks level. I do think that the author's writing and the story she tells are a bit more sophisticated. It would be a great airplane read (though might be a little big long at ~370 pages to finish in one flight).
I picked up a couple books in the past few days, and I'm still trying to figure out which one to read next. I have started The Things They Carried a few times, and then put it aside (not because it wasn't interesting, but just because something flashier caught my eye). I also finally got around to buying Malala Yousafzai's book. And the third choice I picked up after listening to a story he told on The Moth podcast - War by Steven Junger.