Title: The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott
A Novel of the Great War
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical (’20s), World War I, Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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.
Set in 1921, The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott is a poignant novel that offers a heartbreaking glimpse of families searching for answers about their missing and deceased loved ones after World War I.
Edie Blythe is shocked to receive a picture of her husband, Francis, four years after he is reported missing during his service in World War I. This raises many questions including whether or not he is still, in fact, alive. Edie reaches out to her brother-in-law Harry who served with his brother during the war. Harry is certain his brother is dead, but, like Edie, there is a glimmer of hope Francis might have survived. Harry is already traveling throughout France taking photos of soldiers’ graves for their grieving families. Using Francis’ photographs to guide him, Harry retraces his brother’s footsteps in hopes of finding out the truth.
Written mostly from Harry’s perspective as he endeavors to find the graves of fallen soldiers, he is quite introspective as he flashes back to his wartime experiences. The pages are filled with long, descriptive passages of battles and military life. While the prose is quite descriptive, the story gets bogged down with the lengthy, overly detailed passages. In the present, Harry meets many interesting people on his journey which provides readers with insight into how former soldiers and their families cope in the aftermath of war.
Several chapters are written from Edie’s point of view as she wrestles with the possibility that Francis is still alive. Her remembrances of her husband are tender yet a bit painful as she realizes how much war and loss changed him. Edie sets out on her trip to try to learn the truth about Francis. After a shocking discovery, Edie returns home where she tries to put her grief and guilt behind her.
Inspired by Caroline Scott’s family history, The Poppy Wife is a very bittersweet novel that highlights the uncertainty families endured when their loved one is declared missing. I highly recommend this educational novel to readers of historical fiction.