The Girl You Left Behind begins in France in 1916.
Most of the men from a small French village are off fighting in the war and the Germans have occupied the village. One of the women left behind, Sophie, is left to deal with this occupation of not only the village, but also her family inn and restaurant.
Before leaving for the front, Sophie's husband was a talented artist who studied under Matisse, and the portrait of his wife-- bearing the same title as this book-- has captured the imagination of the German commander in the village. Night after night, the Germans force Sophie and her siblings to cook for them, but because of the commander’s infatuation with the painting and with Sophie, they are treated with a little more compassion. Sophie is convinced that if she sacrifices the painting and herself, she will see her husband again.
Now, fast-forward nearly a century and we find the same painting in a London apartment, where a woman named Liv has received both the painting and the apartment as a gift from her recently deceased husband. When the painting appears in the spread of an architectural magazine, its ownership comes into question. With lack of provenance, Liv finds herself in a battle to save the painting, her husband’s reputation, and her old life.
When the fight for the painting becomes quite public, Liv finds herself highly scrutinized, labeled by an ignorant public as a Nazi supporter-- which more than tests her resolve.
The Girl You Left Behind is actually about two women left behind-- two strong women determined to fight, and lose everything, for what they love.