Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for a copy of The Visitors by Caroline Scott to read and review for the blog tour organised by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. Regular readers of my book review may remember how much I loved reading The Photographer of the Lost (see my review at https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/12/29/the-photographer-of-the-lost-by-caroline-scott/) and When I Come Home Again (https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/10/31/when-i-come-home-again-by-caroline-scott/) last year.
From the highly acclaimed author of The Photographer of the Lost, a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick, comes a tale of a young war widow and one life-changing, sun-drenched visit to Cornwall in the summer of 1923…
Esme Nicholls is to spend the summer in Cornwall. Her late husband Alec, who died fighting in the war, grew up in Penzance, and she’s hoping to learn more about the man she loved and lost.
While there, she will stay with Gilbert, in his rambling seaside house, where he lives with his former brothers in arms. Esme is fascinated by this community of eccentric artists and former soldiers, and as she gets to know the men and their stories, she begins to feel this summer might be exactly what she needs.
But everything is not as idyllic as it seems – a mysterious new arrival later in the summer will turn Esme’s world upside down, and make her question everything she thought she knew about her life, and the people in it.
Full of light, laughter and larger-than-life characters, The Visitors is a novel of one woman finally finding her voice and choosing her own path forwards.
This is a beautifully written and emotional book, looking at how the people who survived the First World War years dealt with the legacy of the war – the loss of lives, health, happiness and expected futures. Many of the survivors returned with physical and mental health issues, which were much less understood then.
When we first meet Esme, she is a living a quiet life as a widow who is mourning her husband, their marital home and her imagined future. Spending time in a house with men who fought in the war, and are dealing with their personal battles is an eye opener.
The house in Cornwall is owned by Gilbert (the brother of her employer, Fenella) and we discover via the diary style writing of Rory from 1916 onwards, how the other men (Sebastian, Hal and Clarence) came to meet each other and develop close bonds. We also find out more about Miles, who has moved away to London.
This is a summer of discovery for Esme, who seems to be stuck in limbo. She discovers a different pace of life and new friends, although some take longer than others to be nice to her. But can she finally shake off her widow’s clothes and embrace life again as a young woman?
I enjoyed Caroline’s first two books but this has become my new favourite. Cornwall comes to life with the beautiful descriptions of the flora, fauna and views. The characters are well developed and you quickly find yourself caring for them, especially as you learn more about their experiences. The book also reminds us how the war changed lives in ways you may not have appreciated before.
The mix of stories from the past from Esme and Rory, interwoven into the stories of the present (although set 100 years ago), made this a book I didn’t want to put down. I’m trying desperately not to give away any spoilers because this is a book that should be enjoyed in the exact order it was written. Another 5 star read from Caroline Scott (although I would like to give more than 5!).
Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on thelandscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.