The Poppy Wife

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By Caroline Scott. Audiobook by HarperAudio narrated by Lucy Paterson and Chris Harper

In 1921, Edie Blythe is struggling to accept the loss of her husband Francis four years after he was officially reported “missing, believed killed” in France.

Then she receives a photograph in the mail, a portrait of Francis, but with no identifying information about when or where the photo was taken or who sent it. Is this a sign that Francis is still alive?

A boyish Francis had courted her in the library where she worked before the war, making jokes through the shelves and waiting for her on the library steps. The last time she’d seen him, he’d come home on leave a changed man. Silent, exhausted and unwilling to look her in the eye.

In the mysterious photo, he looks 10 years older than he did when he was on leave just a month earlier.

Her brother-in-law Harry is a photographer working in France taking photos of graves, battlefields and destroyed towns for grieving widows, fiancés and families. As he does so, he searches for Francis’s final resting place and that of his youngest brother Will.

He revisits the sites of battles that he and his brothers fought in, haunted by memories of his brothers and their comrades. He struggles with his growing love for Edie and guilt about how much Francis may have suspected about his feelings before he died.

Harry passes destroyed villages and farms, mounds of barbed wire, exploded shells and other debris of war. He meets widows searching for any personal possession of their husband that would allow them to identify where their husband is buried. He meets veterans unable to go home, committed to identifying and reburying the dead in formal cemeteries while removing the detritus of war and helping local towns rebuild.

This is a beautifully written, poignant story of love and loss. Author Caroline Scott paints a devastating picture of the aftermath of war and the challenges of moving forward after the horrors, losses and often uncertainty about the fates of loved ones.

I listened to the audiobook which features the voices of Lucy Paterson and Chris Harper as Edie and Harry respectively as well as the voices of other minor characters. The audiobook was an enjoyable listen.

Other books set in the post-World War I years include THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN JOHN EMMETT and THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON, both by Elizabeth Speller.

The Author: Caroline Scott

Born in the United Kingdom and currently living in southwest France, Caroline Scott‘s book, THE POPPY WIFE, was partially inspired by her family history.

She is a freelance writer and historian specializing in World War I and women’s history. she holds a doctorate in history from Durham University. After earning her degree, she worked as a researcher in Belgium and France.

“I have a particular fascination with the experience of women during this period, in the difficulties faced by the returning soldier and in the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the former conflict zones,” she writes.

In 2019, she began writing historical fiction. THE POPPY WIFE was published in the UK as THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE LOST.


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