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A Stunning, Stand-out Debut: Read a Review of The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott

December 3, 2019

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. He looks a little older in the photo, which would mean he’s still alive. Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own… And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He was with him the day he was shot, and held him in his arms. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said to each other. 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.

Told through separate timelines, and then 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.

This is an epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, with richly drawn characters, with complex story arcs that move back and forward through time. The characters are profoundly impacted by the war experience. This is especially true for Harry who goes from being full of swagger to a traumatised war veteran, struggling with flashbacks and nightmares.

The front matter of the novel includes a map, and a timeline for events in World War I, which is useful as the novel progresses. Author, Caroline Scott is an historian specializing in WWI and women’s history, with a PhD from Durham University. It’s also set primarily in France where Scott lives. She draws on her area of expertise and delivers a powerful and rare debut. Historicals set during the war continue to be popular, so it’s a difficult genre to truly make your mark in, but this stunning novel rises to the top. The Poppy Wife is an excellent read. And truly heartbreaking, so keep the tissues handy.

Buy a copy of The Poppy Wife here.

About the author:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She has a particular interest in the experience of women during the First World War, in the challenges faced by the returning soldier, and in the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the former conflict zones. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in south-west France.


  1. Marion Downie

    The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott sounds so interesting that I intend to purchase a copy as soon as I can. I want to see what happens with Harry and Francis, also I wish to see if Edie is able to find out where the photo of Francis came from and does he return to her injured but alive? Or is he dead.

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