Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Coming Soon, Debut, Historical Fiction

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Today I am so thrilled to be able to chat about The Photographer of the Lost  as part of the Random Things Tours blog tour ahead of publication in October. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Jaffareadstoo (twitter: @jaffareadstoo ) where she will also be revealing the stunning cover so do take a look.  In the meantime here’s the synopsis and my thoughts on this wonderful novel.

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own…
An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I

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 beings 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.

IMG_20190717_094940

This is an absolutely stunning novel.  Beautifully written and heartbreaking it takes a very different approach to the subject of war and the ones who have been left behind.

Edie never really knows what happened to her husband Francis after he was reported missing in action in 1917.  Four years later and she is still no closer to the truth, that is until a photograph arrives in the post from France.  It is a picture of Francis and Edie is sure that it has been taken recently.  She must find answers and so reaches out to Francis’ surviving brother, Harry, for help.  Harry was the last person to see Francis alive and he too wants more than ever to find out what happened to him.

This is one of those novels that I feel I can never write a review good enough to give it justice.  It’s not just the subject matter that Caroline has captured so brilliantly but also that sense of hopelessness that must be felt when there is a lack of closure.  Never really knowing if a loved one is dead or alive.  Through Harry and Edie’s journey to France we see the reality of the post-war period.  Of course we are all familiar with the visions of war torn countries still appearing in the news today but the level of death and destruction during WWI was unprecedented. I recently visited the Imperial War Museum in London and some of the most moving exhibits were those concerning soldiers who lost their lives and the families they left behind.  One particular piece that I found most upsetting was a telegram informing a family of a soldiers death on Christmas Day, 1914.  The actual telegram.  I immediately thought of it arriving and being held in hands that had once held those of that soldier and the heartbreak the news must have brought.  These things make their loss relatable to us, they make it more real.

Yet it must have been equally if not more unbearable to receive a ‘Missing in Action’ telegram.  There is always that sliver of hope that they are still alive and yet how on earth do you move on from that? How do you ever find closure.  And the numbers of missing men.  It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Through The Photographer of the Lost Caroline has explored this through Harry and Edie’s search of Francis.  She moves back and forth through time giving us a deeper insight into what happened to Francis and the unknown fate of many others who went to fight for their country and never came back.  In my own lifetime I have seen countless images of people placing photographs of those missing in terrorist attacks and natural disasters.  The people that never came home and are unaccounted for.  I never knew that this is what people did a hundred years ago.  Pictures of the missing and pictures of the family that are missing them – all placed insight so that they might reunite them together in real life.  It invokes a very powerful image indeed.

Caroline has created a beautiful novel of love and loss.  Her writing is incredibly moving and her vast historical knowledge of this time evident throughout.  She brilliantly brings to life worn-torn France and these characters that are completely unforgettable.  Early on we see the beginning of their love ignite as Edie and Francis come together in a chance meeting at their local library and from that moment I was completely invested in their journey.

He was just a white-toothed grin, disembodied like the Cheshire Cat, and words with a scent of boiled sweets.  But then he was eyes that watched her through the Romantics and the Classics; a flicker of long lashes and clear bright blue-green eyes that creased at the corners, so that she knew he was smiling on the other side. He existed only in fragments and glimpses and elements, and a voice that linked them all.  But then he was a flash of profile, and finally a face that had looked directly down into her own as she had stepped out at the end of the row, as if he had always been there waiting for her.

This except is taken from the proof copy but I wanted to share it as an example of both the quality and beauty of Caroline’s writing. The Photographer of the Lost  is a novel that will stay with me for a long time and one that I thoroughly recommend.  When is comes to love we are not so different to how we were then.  Suffering comes in many packages and I feel that stories such as this are important for reminding us what was lost by so many.

The Photographer of the Lost is published by Simon & Schuster in October but you can pre-order it now.  Check out their website for further details.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and the lovely people at Simon & Schuster for my beautiful proof copy.

About the author

Caroline Scott

1-3
Author photo by Johnny Ring

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 Caroline on Twitter at @CScottBooks

unnamed

Advertisements
Adult Fiction, Children's Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories

Books for Remembrance

100 years ago today the guns fell silent. After four years of fighting, loss and destruction the war to end all wars was finally over. And for 100 years we have been honouring those who fell, those who survived and those who continue to fight ever since. War is an incredibly devisive subject but no matter your view it is important to remember what has been lost in the name of freedom.

For those of us in the UK, November 11th is a day for us to pay tribute to all those affected by War.  There is a wealth of material out there to help us remember, to commemorate and appreciate what has been lost for our future and the future of our children.   It is also a way for us to teach our children and younger generation empathy and compassion.  Below is a small selection of both adult and children’s books that I personally recommend.  There are of course many more so please do add your own personal recommendations in the comments section below.

My first selection are four books by author Hilary Robinson and illustrator Martin Impey.  I first discovered Where The Poppies Now Grow several years ago when I worked on the editorial team at Lovereading4kids.  It is an incredibly beautifully illustrated book with a moving story about two friends who went to war told in Hilary’s memorable verse.  As soon as I saw it I knew that it would be an important book and would help raise discussion and understanding with young children about the First World War . Since then Hilary and Martin have gone on to produce three more tales taking us right through to the end of the War and each story encouraging empathy and hope through difficult times.

51qibYPp5iL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

This moving poetic text matched with warm-hearted illustrations captures the lives of two friends and the parts they played in the enormous military campaign of the First World War. From their early days playing together through to their old age they shared everything. Above all, as young men they courageously shared the danger and devastation of the war which took place on their very own land. The result is a book that reflects the lasting importance of both friendship and place and how they can help to heal the tragedy of war.

61whh1wzICL._SX394_BO1,204,203,200_The Christmas Truce by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

It’s Christmas Eve 1914. A group of tired soldiers start singing Stille Nacht. Soldiers the other side of No Man’s Land respond with Silent Night. The next day, soldiers on both sides put down their weapons and celebrate the spirit of Christmas Day with a friendly football match. In the sequel to the hugely popular Where The Poppies Now Grow, The Christmas Truce finds soldiers Ben and Ray shaking hands in friendship with Karl and Lars, a tribute to that remarkable moment in history when, for one day, peace found a place.

UnknownFlo of the Somme by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

Following on from Where The Poppies Now Grow and The Christmas Truce, Flo of the Somme pays tribute to the remarkable bravery of the animals who risked their lives during World War 1. Set in a bygone age, Mercy Dog Flo has more to contend with than racing across dangerous battlefields. Can she reach the injured in time with her medical kit, and can she lead Ray and the ambulance unit to the injured? With poignant poetic text sensitively written for a young audience, the rich illustration detail significant landmarksof a battle which is recognised as one of the most costliest engagements of World War 1.

51IZD0oyORL._SX387_BO1,204,203,200_Peace Lily by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

Peace Lily follows on from Where The Poppies Now Grow, The Christmas Truce and Flo Of The Somme and finds childhood friend, Lily, follow Ben and Ray to the battlefields. Peace Lily marks the contribution made by women to the First World War and celebrates the common humanity shown by all, on all sides.

51hWZswsm4L-1._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_A Song For Will by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

When World War One is declared on 4th August 1914, errand boy, Alfie, is disappointed that he is too young to sign up. But his frustration turns to despair as he begins to realise the brutal consequences of battle. During the four year conflict, Alfie’s exchange of letters with Heligan stone mason, Fred Paynter, and the visits home of gardener, William Guy, paint a poignant picture of life at the front. Reading them in a peaceful corner of England, the sanctuary of Heligan, Alfie realises just how different his life could have been. Can Fred and Will survive the horrors of the Somme in 1916? And what worrying news might Alfie receive about other battles? Published in partnership with the Lost Gardens of Heligan and drawing on facts from their archives A Song For Will is a beautiful story of longing and loss, of discovery and hope.

*

Recently I’ve added a few titles to my school library.  There is of course a wealth of choices available but I felt these in particular earned a space there.  Each of these books are beautifully produced and I hope will inspire the children to pick them up and read them.

519jdOIZjyL._AC_US218_Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo

Michael Morpurgo and Michael Foreman have teamed up with the Royal British Legion to tell an original story that explains the meaning behind the poppy.

In Flanders’ fields, young Martens knows his family’s story, for it is as precious as the faded poem hanging in their home. From a poor girl comforting a grieving soldier, to an unexpected meeting of strangers, to a father’s tragic death many decades after treaties were signed, war has shaped Martens’s family in profound ways – it is their history as much as any nation’s.

This is an absolutely beautifully produced book and is perfect to share with younger reader or equally a special read for any age.  It is incredibly moving and shows us the effect the war had on the generations since it began over a hundred years ago.  Truly special and a small donation goes to the British legion for every copy sold.

Unknown-2The Great War: Stories Inspired by Objects from the First World War

The Great War is a powerful collection of stories by bestselling authors, each inspired by a different object from the First World War. From a soldier’s writing case to the nose of a Zeppelin bomb, each object illuminates an aspect of life during the war, and each story reminds us of the millions of individual lives that were changed forever by the four years of fighting. This remarkable book is illustrated by the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Jim Kay. Featuring new work from: AL Kennedy, Tracy Chevalier, Michael Morpurgo, David Almond, Marcus Sedgwick, Adele Geras, Ursula Dubosarsky, John Boyne,  Timothée de Fombelle, Sheena Wilkinson, Tanya Lee Stone.

61WX0d987oL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Poems from the First World War: Published in Association with Imperial War Museum

Poems from the First World War is a moving and powerful collection of poems written by soldiers, nurses, mothers, sweethearts and family and friends who experienced WWI from different standpoints. It records the early excitement and patriotism, the bravery, friendship and loyalty of the soldiers, and the heartbreak, disillusionment and regret as the war went on to damage a generation. It includes poems from Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Vera Brittain, Eleanor Farjeon, Edward Thomas, Laurence Binyon, John McCrae, Siegfried Sassoon and many more.

The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 to collect and display material relating to the ‘Great War’, which was still being fought. Today IWM is unique in its coverage of conflicts, especially those involving Britain and the Commonwealth, from the First World War to the present. They seek to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and wartime experience.

51C1m+mzjUL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Penguin Classics)

Reflecting the voices of poets, soldiers, the families they left behind and their comrades who would never return, The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, previously published as In Flanders Fields, is edited with an introduction by George Walter in Penguin Classics.

Unrivalled for its range and intensity, the poetry of the First World War continues to have a powerful effect on readers. This anthology reflects the diverse experience of those who lived through the war – bringing together the words of poets, soldiers and civilians affected by the conflict. Including famous verses from Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen; pieces by less well-known writers such as Gilbert Frankau and Osbert Sitwell; works by women describing the emotions of those at home; and the anonymous lyrics of soldiers’ songs, The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry offers a blend of voices that is both unique and profoundly moving.

This collection has been arranged thematically, moving through the war’s different stages from conscription through to its aftermath, to offer the reader a variety of perspectives on the same common experiences. George Walter’s introduction discusses the role and scope of First World War poetry anthologies, and how the canon has changed over the years. This edition also contains notes and biographies.

51l4Mv7E0ML._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay – 9yrs +

The Skylarks’ War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One, from the award-winning Hilary McKay.

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

The next title is for YA readers and adults.  I have to admit that I saw the BBC adaptation of this before I read the book but both were incredibly moving.  It has been some years since I first read Birdsong, but it has always stayed with me.

Unknown-3Bird Song by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong is a mesmerising story of love and war spanning three generations between WW1 and present day

1910. Amiens, Northern France. Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in the French city to stay with the Azaire family. He falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle and the two enter a tempestuous love affair. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship falters. With his love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, Stephen volunteers to fight on the Western Front and enters the unimaginable dark world beneath the trenches of No Man’s Land. From award-winning writer Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong is an exceptionally moving and unforgettable portrait of the ruthlessness of war and the indestructibility of love.

51ubu3F+gCL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Regeneration by Pat Barker

The modern classic of contemporary war fiction – a Man Booker Prize-nominated examination of World War I and its deep legacy of human traumas.

‘A brilliant novel. Intense and subtle’ Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

Craiglockhart War Hospital, Scotland, 1917, and army psychiatrist William Rivers is treating shell-shocked soldiers. Under his care are the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as mute Billy Prior, who is only able to communicate by means of pencil and paper. Rivers’s job is to make the men in his charge healthy enough to fight. Yet the closer he gets to mending his patients’ minds the harder becomes every decision to send them back to the horrors of the front. Pat Barker’s Regenerationis the classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young men.

This is the first novel in Pat Barkers Regeneration Trilogy.  It is followed by The Eye in the Door and Man Booker Prize winner, The Ghost Road.

*

In the world we live in today there can be times when it is easy to question the sacrifice that so many made and continue to make.  There seems to be so little peace within the world. I know there have been moments when I have wondered if all those who died would have believed it worthwhile if they saw the hate that continues to permeate through our world today. Not one single person should have to die in the name of peace but it is not peace that kills, it is hate. Every person and animal who has fought for peace shall be remembered; those who lost their lives and those who survived such horrors. I hope this continues for another 100 years, and then another, and another. I hope that remembrance reminds us that real people lie at the heart of conflict. Real lives. I worry that our young especially an be desensitised to the horror of war by the constant barrage of violent games, film and tv. So these occasions when we actually connect the atrocities to real people, when we make it relatable, are incredibly important.

 

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Coming Soon

Coming Soon… The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner

I’m be delighted to be taking part in the upcoming blog tour for The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner. The tour runs from Sunday the 10th September through to the 19th and will be visiting us here on Tales Before Bedtime on Monday the 11th of September.

1