The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Today I’m sharing my thoughts about Caroline Scott’s debut novel, which was published by Simon and Schuster UK in hardback in 2019 and in paperback in June 2020.

Synopsis:

If someone you loved when missing, would you ever stop searching for them?

1921. The Great War is over and while many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search. 

Francis’ brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had. 

As Harry and Edith’s path converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.

My thoughts:

I purchased this book back in June 2020 from Bert’s Books but only started reading it during the first weekend of Lockdown 2 which was also Remembrance weekend. As readers of my book review blog may remember, I recently read and reviewed Caroline’s latest book, When I Come Home Again (https://mentoringmumof2bookreviews.home.blog/2020/10/31/when-i-come-home-again-by-caroline-scott/)

The photographer from the title of the book is Harry, who went to war with both his brothers but was the only one to return to England. As the story develops, we discover more about Harry’s relationships with his family and what happened in France and Belgium. Harry takes photos for other families who are looking for their loved ones who have been declared as Missing In Action or who have died.

The book is heartbreaking in places but is beautifully written by Caroline Scott, who conveys the horrors of World War 1 and the aftermath with care. Was a Missing In Action telegram more cruel than a Died in Service telegram, due to the continued hope of seeing a loved one alive again?

A five star read for me.

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott but I have bought a copy of her debut novel, The Photographer of the Lost, from Bert’s Books ready to read later this year.

Synopsis:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My thoughts:

Having read the opening chapters during the summer of 2020, I was keen to continue reading this book to find out more about Adam. I felt as if I had rushed through the opening chapters on my Kindle and enjoyed taking my time to read them again in the printed book. Caroline’s style of writing brings each person and place alive.

I’m a mother, a sister and a wife, and I think that may have made this story more heartbreaking. The three women who come forward to ‘claim’ Adam are seeking their son (who was their sole reason for living from being young), their husband (who left on a sour note believing village gossip) and their brother (who they need to help bring up his children after his wife died in childbirth). All have been told by the government that their man is missing in action, all believe that he has not died and all believe that Adam is him. As we discover there are various reasons why Adam may not be one of them, from being too tall or having the wrong hair colour. How has their grief affected their ability to make an honest claim?

Alongside the story of Adam, we have the story of James, who is there to help Adam discover his identity. However James was in France during the War and finds that working with veterans is causing his own memories and nightmares to worsen. His wife’s twin brother was seriously injured during a battle and hasn’t been seen since, and James feels guilty that Nathaniel was only there because of him.

In November 1918, many families rejoiced to have their loved ones return home. However many of those loved ones were changed for ever, their physical and/mental health altered in ways that weren’t understood. This book looks at the aftermath of the war, the hopes and dreams of those who fought and those left behind. This is one of those books that will stay in my mind for a long time, beautiful but also heartbreaking. Personally I think that this book should be on school English Literature/History lists for the older students to see why there are no winners in the aftermath of a war.

Author Bio:

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 the landscape 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.

Further praise for The Photographer Of The Lost

‘This excellent debut is a melancholic reminder of the rippling after-effects of war’ – The Times

‘There’s only one word for this novel… and that’s epic… A beautifully written must-read’ – heat

‘A gripping, devastating novel about the lost and the ones they left behind’ – Sarra Manning, RED

‘[A] terrific first novel’ Daily Mail


‘Scott has done an amazing job of drawing on real stories to craft a powerful novel’ – Good Housekeeping


‘A poignant hymn to those who gave up their lives for their country and to those who were left behind’ – Fanny Blake


‘I was utterly captivated by this novel, which swept me away, broke my heart, then shone wonderful light through all the pieces’ – Isabelle Broom

@CScottBooks #WhenIComeHomeAgain