Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review - The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott

Book Synopsis
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 has not come home. Francis is presumed to have been killed in action, but Edie believes he might still be alive.

Harry, Francis’s brother, was there the day Francis was wounded. He was certain it was a fatal wound—that he saw his brother die—but as time passes, Harry begins questioning his memory of what happened. Could Francis, like many soldiers, merely be lost and confused somewhere? Hired by grieving families, Harry returns to the Western Front to photograph gravesites. As he travels through battle-scarred France and Belgium gathering news for British wives and mothers, he searches for evidence of Francis.

When Edie receives a mysterious photograph of Francis, she is more convinced than ever he might still be alive. And so, she embarks on a journey in the hope of finding some trace of her husband. Is he truly gone? And if he isn’t, then 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 faced with the life-changing impact of the answers they discover.

Artful and incredibly moving, The Poppy Wife tells the unforgettable story of the soldiers lost amid the chaos and ruins, and those who were desperate to find them.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Poppy Wife is the story of lives torn apart by World War I. Francis, Harry, and Will are British brothers who go to war. Will is killed in action. Francis and Harry are in love with the same woman (although Francis married her).  Francis is presumed killed, but his body is not found.  Harry returns from war, a broken man.  Edie is Francis's wife, left in limbo wondering what happened to him.  One day she gets a photograph in the mail that looks like an older version of her husband.  She goes off to France searching for answers, traveling a path that crisscrosses with the one Harry is traveling as he photographs gravesites for families.

I wanted to read this novel because the subject matter is so intriguing.  I have read historical fiction about World War I, but never a book focusing on stories like the one of Francis in this book.

This is absolutely the most beautifully told, heartbreaking book.  The imagery is extraordinary.  I was struck, over and over, by the images of Harry traveling through France, photographing gravesites and places that soldiers last visited for their families.  On his travels he befriends Rachel, a woman whose husband is also presumed killed - and who desperately seeks answers.  He also befriends Gabriel, a stonemason and former soldier who is working on a war memorial.

And then there is Edie.  She is a fascinating character, looking for answers and at the same time scared at what she can find.  Even before he went missing, her husband was distant and changed.  She is drawn to Harry and confused about her feelings.

The book is told in short chapters, some from Edie's viewpoint, and some from Harry's.  The chapters begin with a location heading - locales through France and Great Britain.

The descriptions in this book are breathtaking.  For instance, Edie wakes up in Arras, France:

"The morning light is creeping across the rooftops.  Once upon a time this skyline would have been spiked with belfries and church steeples, but today the towers have all come down and the roofline is tattered.  The white shape of the cathedral is like a ghost of a building.  Smoke starts to rise from the chimney opposite Edie's window and a flight of starlings streaks along the street below and then wheels above.  She envies the birds the lift of their wings as she turns away" (p. 85).

I was so engrossed in this book that I felt like time stopped while I was reading.  I literally could not put it down.  I have been thinking of it since. 

I cannot recommend The Poppy Wife highly enough for fans of historical fiction. This book is sure to be one of my favorite reads of 2019, and I think it will top many other lists as well.

Author Bio
Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history, with a PhD from Durham University. Born in the UK, Caroline currently resides in France. The Poppy Wife is partially inspired by her family history.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.


Anonymous said...

Just spotted this. What a wonderfully generous review. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the story and the writing style, Trish. It's great to hear that.
Thank you very much!
Caroline x

barbarakwrites said...

What a fabulous review! It certainly makes me want to read this book. So many aspects you describe are what I look for when deciding what to read.I plan to add this to my must read list!

Sara Strand said...

Normally I'm not even a fan of historical fiction but your review has SOLD me. Anytime someone says "book of the year", I'm listening. Thank you for this stellar review. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

trish said...

Wow! What an amazing book to get lost in.