Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mini Reviews: "The Girl You Left Behind" by Jojo Moyes and "I, Ripper" by Stephen Hunter

"The Girl You Left Behind" by Jojo Moyes
First published in 2012
369 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

This dual narrative centers on Sophie Lefevre in German-controlled 1916 France and London widow Liv Halston in 2006. Separated by nearly a century, the lives of these two not-so-different women are joined to a very special work of art painted by Sophie's husband. "The Girl You Left Behind" is historical fiction and it's romance, but it's also something more -- poignant and thoughtful, tragic and sweet. (And I also learned a thing or two; for instance, did you know there's an industry devoted to recovering war-looted artwork?)

"The Girl You Left Behind" was my third Jojo Moyes book and I haven't been disappointed yet. It's interesting how all three -- "Me Before You," "One Plus One," and this book -- vary so vastly in subject nature but they all manage to resonate with readers. I think it just comes down to the fact that Jojo Moyes is such a skilled storyteller with a knack for writing lovably flawed characters and making readers feel invested in their fates. These days I rarely get around to reading an author's entire set of works, but I'm going to make a point to read all of Moyes's. Do you have a favorite Moyes book that I haven't read yet? I'm thinking "The Last Letter From Your Lover" will be next.

"I, Ripper" by Stephen Hunter
First published in 2015
298 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

I had such high hopes for "I, Ripper" and they were, sadly, ripped apart -- though not so brutally as Jack the Ripper wrecked the guts of the Whitechapel prostitutes who were his victims.

Hunter's novel attempts to answer the age-old questions of Jack's identity and motivation. On that count I think Hunter fell short -- I didn't really like the answers he provided, and I thought the "mystery" part of the story was too predictable.

I also really struggled with the writing. "I, Ripper" is told in the form of a later memoir by newspaper reporter Jeb of the London Star and entries from the diary of Ripper himself. The 1888-style writing was hard to wade through to begin with, and Hunter threw in a lot of obscure (military history?) references that I just didn't get.

On the plus side, I really didn't know a lot about Jack the Ripper going in and I learned quite a bit from this novel. Other than inserting a motive and face for our killer, it seems Hunter stayed quite true to the actual known facts of the case.

Overall, though, this novel was a rather long, hard slog and I ended up doing some skimming the last 75 pages. It could definitely have been worse -- Hunter is indeed a good writer  -- but unless you're a "ripperologist" this book might not be worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely going to have to find time to read "The girl you left Behind".


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