I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott alongside my tour buddy, Amanda at My Bookish Blogspot. Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Simon & Schuster for my review copy.
About the Book
‘Beautiful, unflinching, elegiac: The Photographer of the Lost is going to be on an awful lot of Best Books of the Year lists, mine included . . . it’s unforgettable’ Iona Grey, bestselling author of The Glittering Hour
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 grave sites, 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.
Format: Hardcover, ebook (512 pages) Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 31st October 2019. Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Photographer of the Lost on Goodreads
The legacy of war, in this case the First World War, is a theme vividly and movingly explored in The Photographer of the Lost. There are the traumatic memories of conflict and survivor’s guilt of those who came back, like Harry, the lingering absence of those who didn’t, and the unfinished business of those reported missing in action, like Harry’s brother, Francis. Francis’ wife, Edie, joins many thousands of others hoping desperately for some miracle or, at the very least, finding some resolution even if only a grave at which to mourn.
Edie’s search is cleverly connected with the art of photography through Harry’s current occupation, photographing the graves of young men lost in the war as keepsakes for their grieving families and for fiancées who will now never become the wives of their sweethearts. Photographs – what they can and can’t say, the capturing of a likeness or of a moment in time – play an important part in the book. Harry and Edie both attempt to piece together clues from the photographs taken by Francis in order to uncover his story, revealing along the way a tangled web of relationships.
However, alongside the grief of relatives and the wounds – physical and mental – suffered by those who survived, there are signs of hope. For example, as Harry returns to France in 1921 he sees evidence of the rebuilding of villages destroyed in the war and of their inhabitants slowly trying to return to something like normal life. I loved the way this is also reflected in the natural world. ‘There are lines of young, flimsy-looking trees planted around the edges of the cemetery. Beyond them are other trees, bent and blasted, with metal splinters embedded in some of their trunks. They are both ugly and beautiful, these stubborn trees; they are both candid witnesses and resurgent life. New growth breaks from scarred trunks.’
Harry also witnesses those attempting to respect the memories of the fallen through the careful tending of cemeteries or the maintenance of records that might reunite families or at least bring them closure. It’s a timely reminder as we approach Remembrance Day of the horror of war, its lasting impact on nations and individuals, and the efforts of many dedicated individuals to honour the fallen (continued to this day through the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.)
The Photographer of the Lost will immerse you in the stories of its characters as they search for answers, for the strength to carry on and for forgiveness. Tissues at the ready, people.
In three words: Powerful, moving, intense
Try something similar: The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson (read my review here)
About the Author
Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company.
Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France.
Connect with Caroline