Title: The Poppy Wife
Author: Caroline Scott
Published: November 1st 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
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 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 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 Poppy Wife 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.
The Poppy Wife is a moving story of guilt, pain, separation, unanswered questions, dedication and love. It is a prudent novel that easily engulfs the reader in a tale of mystery, belief and heartbreak.
The Poppy Wife follows the broken lives and loves of those left behind by the impact of World War I. Caroline Scott’s first novel crosses two different but close timelines, 1921 and 1917. In the year 1921, everyone is consumed by the aftermath of the war. The war has left a trail of fragmented lives. Many people do not have any conclusive answers as to the whereabouts of their husbands, lovers, fathers, sons and brothers. For the lead of The Poppy Wife, Edie is one woman amongst so many left with unanswered questions as to the final fate of her husband Francis. Edie holds a photograph of her beloved and all she knows is that he has been classified as ‘missing in action’. Edie still holds some glimmer of hope that she can find Francis. Connected to Edie’s story is that of Harry, who is Francis’ brother. Harry fought and survived the Western front. Harry now works as a photographer for the fallen. He is tasked with the job of finding the grave sites of the fallen soldiers for the families of these brave men. Harry encounters Edie while on a search for the truth and both come to a harsh realisation by the close of the book.
Inspired by her own studies and personal family history, author Caroline Scott has penned a novel of great historical weight. The Poppy Wife tackles the difficult undergrowth of the devastation of WWI. It considers the impact on the soldiers that survived the war, who then went to live a very changed life. Scott also looks closely at the loved ones left behind. The Poppy Wife is a novel told with significant historical knowledge, insight and personal heart. It reminds us of the pure devastation experienced by many families following the close of the war.
The Poppy Wife is a thoughtful book that provides the reader with an excellent and historically accurate glimpse into this complex time period in our history books. The unfolding narrative is told from two separate timelines, which relays the perspectives of a returned solider and a wife left behind. I found both these voices compelling and insightful. I appreciated the heartbreaking and life affirming journey the characters in this novel went through. This pathway was tinged with plenty of historical record and authenticity.
Forming the historical backbone of The Poppy Wife are the various family requests for photographs of gravesites of the fallen to Harry. Harry’s profession definitely added an extra layer to this emotional tale. Scott also includes a detailed map of Belgium and France, along with a comprehensive timeline of the key events of the First World War. Preceding The Poppy Wife is a newspaper clipping outlining a request for battlefield photography, which gives the reader an insight into the specialised work of Harry, the lead of this novel.
What urged me to continue to read The Poppy Wife with gusto was the central mystery involving the final fate of Francis, who is Edie’s husband and Harry’s brother. This is an upsetting story that truly strikes directly at the heart. By the close of the novel, Scott delivers some answers as to what these characters have been seeking.
Emotional and historically informative, The Poppy Wife provides an exceptional glimpse into the impact of the First World War, with particular reference to burial arrangements of the thousands of soldiers who fought in the war. The Poppy Wife is a requisite piece of historical fiction that works to enhance our understanding of the aftermath of one of our most devastating periods in world history.