11.10.19

BOOK REVIEW: The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own.An epic debut 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 she begins to search.Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for 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 grave sites, as he travels through battle scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

The Photographer of the Lost is a fantastic debut from Caroline Scott. It is accomplished and compelling, I was so impressed with the way in which she told her story. 
After the Great War many men were missing, presumed dead. Edie’s husband Francis is one of them. She has no grave to visit and is stuck in a strange limbo, unable to grieve fully nor to move forward. She then receives a photograph of Francis in the post from France. It has no note or explanation and she begins to question if he really is dead, what if he survived and has sent her this photograph?
She sets off to find him but nothing will prepare her for war-torn France and she begins to understand a little of the horrors Francis faced. 
Harry is Francis’s brother and they fought alongside each other. Harry is back in France photographing graves for those who wish to see their loved ones final resting place. It is a huge burden but he feels it is his responsibility and also he is not ready to go home just yet. Edie asks for his help in her search for Francis and he can’t refuse her. But in helping her, he must face up to the last words he spoke to his brother plus the feelings he has always held for his sister-in-law.
The Photographer of the Lost is so well done. The descriptions of war time and the desolation left behind were rich in detail and vivid. Scott’s descriptions of the actual action were also well done, I felt like she captured the chaos and terror of being on the front line. 
Edie and Harry are also ‘lost’ and both searching for different things. Francis ties them together but also places a barrier between them. It was interesting to see how they navigate this complex relationship. 
The book is beautifully written, it is poignant without being overly sentimental. Scott has clearly done her research as her portrayal of life at the front line is raw and honest.

I can highly recommend this book, it is so important for this time period to be remembered and written about. The Photographer of the Lost is masterly and memorable, an excellent debut. 

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for inviting me to review this book, it is published on 31st October.

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