In the aftermath of war, everyone is searching for answers . . .
An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I
‘A poignant hymn to those who gave up their lives for their country and to those who were left behind’ Fanny Blake, bestselling author of A Summer Reunion
1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.
Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother.
And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.
An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.
The Photographer of the Lost is a beautifully written story set in the years following World War One, about the mindlessness of war and it’s victims. Those that died as a result of action in the trenches and the people that loved them.
It focuses on Harry who takes photographs of the graves of the dead to send to families, so that they can see where their loved ones lie. He is treading a path he once took as a young solider with his two brothers. He and sister-in-law Eddie are searching for answers, to a mystery, did Francis, brother and husband die in the conflict, or is he hiding from them both, unable to return to the life they lived before the war. It is both a love story and a homage to those whose lives caught up in the conflict.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to read some stunning books this year and I have had to constantly revaluate the statement, ‘I think I have found my book of the year’, well I have to again. For this novel is staggering in how it gives a voice to all that were caught up in the fury that Europe found itself enveloped in.
I have read a review that suggests The Photographer of the Lost is too long, that it is a series of sketches, that the writer over describes everything. I can’t say enough, or in sufficient words, how much I disagree with this.
What I loved about this book, was the focus on an aspect of war, that is often forgotten, the awful impact conflicts have on those left behind. Not just the physical injuries, or the mind crushing mourning, but how it robs all of the certainties that held their worlds together. That dad would come home at the end of the day, that the world was centred around their own hearth, because what they ended up with, were men traumatised often beyond healing, not knowing where their sons grave were, living in a void that haunted them. While for others the world moved forward.
With immense talent, but quiet passion, Caroline Scott gives these characters a voice, it is not about the big moments, for here is a novel about the nightmares that haunt those quiet minutes and hours that cut great swathes through lives. Its like she is writing almost under ones breath, wrapping the reader in Harry and Eddies journey, their search for answers and redemption. Faintly in the background the war still holds them all in it’s grip, because for many it never let them go and for two damaged people the answers lie in a long search around France’s fate. I lost myself in their journey, as they came close to answers only to find they were mistaken, my heart lurching for them both. These searches for answers often took years, for some families, the answers never came. The way the story in The Photographer of the Lost gives the narrative room to develop, conveys the vacuum many lives were lived in. It is powerful and moving stuff. Eloquent and heart breaking.
It is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time. Not all books need to be action packed, some if done well, can revel in the subtext below histories big ‘moments’ and The Photographer of the Lost does that with a quiet intensity. It asks the reader to take a step back, to remember and to listen to the voices of a forgotten moment in history. Caroline Scott with a historians eye and a writers artistry, gave me a book with emotional depth, a rallying cry to the power of the written word, of the story, to open up to us all, the voices of a lost generation.
About the author
Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history. The Photographer of the Lost is partially inspired by her family history.
You can follow the author on Twitter
I would like to thank the author, the publisher and the blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.