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.
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 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