Title: The Poppy Wife
Author: Caroline Scott
Publisher: 1st November 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 448 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 cups
In the tradition of Jennifer Robson and Hazel Gaynor, this unforgettable debut novel is a sweeping tale of forbidden love, profound loss, and the startling truth of the broken families left behind in the wake of World War I.
1921. Survivors of the Great War are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis is still missing. Francis is presumed to have been killed in action, but Edie knows he is alive.
Harry, Francis’s brother, was there the day Francis went missing in Ypres. And like Edie, he’s hopeful Francis is living somewhere in France, lost and confused. Hired by grieving families in need of closure, Harry returns to the Western Front to photograph soldiers’ graves. As he travels through France gathering news for British wives and mothers, he searches for evidence his own brother is still alive.
When Edie receives a mysterious photograph that she believes was taken by Francis, she is more certain than ever he isn’t dead. Edie embarks on her own journey in the hope of finding some trace of her husband. Is he truly gone, or could he still be alive? And if he is, why hasn’t he come home?
As Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to the truth about Francis and, as they do, are soon faced with the life-changing impact of the answers they discover.
An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history—those years after the war that were filled with the unknown—The Poppy Wife tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins in battle-scarred France; and the even greater number of men and women hoping to find them again.
Upon reading the synopsis, it is clear that this is a fascinating premise for a book. There are many books surrounding WW1 but this is the first I have encountered regarding grieving families looking for closure of missing loved ones from the war; wives going from French village to village seeking answers or alternatively, a simple request for a photo of a grave site. Deeply touching reading material without doubt.
‘They stick up photographs of their husbands and their own faces. Like so many misplaced shoes that need pairing together again. I didn’t know that there would be so many.’
Richly written and detailed in its execution, Caroline Scott has presented an emotional read of what it must have been like to desire closure from the horrible outcomes of this tragedy. I guess I never really considered the absolute mess all this must have been after November 1918 and the following few years. So many thousands of people listed as missing amongst the complete destruction of town and country. Whole landscapes littered with who knows what amongst the discarded belongings, shell casings and barbed wire.
‘... a farmer is struggling with a plough. Harry has read about the iron harvest, the barbed wire and spent shells that block the ploughshare’s path ...’
This is a book told from multiple viewpoints and differing timelines between 1916 - 1921. Whilst enabling the reader to journey through the various situations, I did at times find these time jumps difficult to keep up with. There is a good mystery, a little romance and lots and lots of introspective thoughts and concerns. I cannot help but feel this book was just a few too many pages long, as I got lost at times amongst it all at times. There are a lot of periphery details which many might enjoy, with long descriptive sentences; yet, my desire was for the core of the story to be adhered to.
This was however, a highly engaging theme regarding the aftermath of WW1 and the often unaccounted for impact on the need for closure in order to move on. The idea here is indeed worthy of the readers attention and although long in parts, is well written and easy to appreciate the plight of those involved.
‘It’s the uncertainty that’s so difficult to live with, isn’t it?’ says Clara. ‘It’s all the questions that you ask yourself. The constant needling of the doubt. The being unable to focus on anything else. It’s so exhausting, isn’t it? I understand that.’
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.