Today, I will be sharing my review of When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott with you all.
How can you know who you are, when you choose to forget who you’ve been?
November 1918. On the cusp of the end of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. It quickly becomes clear that he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.
The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James tries everything he can to help Adam remember who he once was. There’s just one problem. Adam doesn’t want to remember.
Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his mind away, seemingly for good. But when a newspaper publishes Adam’s photograph, three women come forward, each just as certain that Adam is their relative and that he should go home with them.
But does Adam really belong with any of these women? Or is there another family waiting for him to come home?
Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of the First World War.
After reading Caroline Scott’s debut novel, The Photographer of the Lost (REVIEW HERE), I was blown away by her talent, and I knew that I would be reading more of her books in the future. So, when I heard about her upcoming book, When I Come Home Again, I had to get my hands on it.
The story begins in November 1918, with a uniformed soldier, in Durham cathedral. When the soldier is arrested, it soon becomes apparent that he has absolutely no memory. Who is he? and how did he get there? It instantly creates so many questions, and leaves you desperate to find out his name, and more importantly, his story.
Rather than being imprisoned, the soldier is taken to a rehabilitation home, where it soon becomes clear to his doctors that he doesn’t actually want to remember what he has forgotten. He is given the name Adam Galilee (until they can find out his true identity), and he is quite a peculiar character. He’s very perceptive, and doesn’t miss a thing, but at the same time he seems blank, and detached from everyone, and almost everything around him. His only interests seem to be nature, and drawing. (The artist in me loves that in both The Photographer of the Lost and When I Come Home Again, the main characters have a passion for art, and putting their experiences down on paper.)
Not far in to the book, we jump forward two years to 1920, and are introduced to three new female characters. When I Come Home Again is written from multiple POV, and the first three chapters set in 1920 are from the POV of each individual woman. These women have all lost someone in the war, and believe them to be alive. I can’t imagine how it must feel to not know what has happened to a loved one, or if they will ever return, but Caroline’s talent for emotive writing really does give you an idea of what they must have gone through. The first chapter from Celia’s POV in particular was so heart wrenching, and brought me to tears.
When a newspaper publishes Adam’s photograph, women all over the country see their lost love ones in his face, but the three women we have already been introduced to really stand out. Celia, Lucy, and Anna all give descriptions that fit Adam, and so the search for the truth begins. Throughout the story, my theory as to who Adam truly was changed so many times, and I just couldn’t work out which of the missing loved ones he was, or whether he was any of them at all.
Mixed in with Adam’s story, we also get some side stories from other characters which are equally as good as the main story, and I particularly enjoyed James (Adam’s doctor), Caitlin (James’ wife), and Nat (Caitlin’s twin brother, lost at war)’s story. There are occasional chapters which travel back to the war as flashbacks/James’ nightmares, and these chapters really tear at your heartstrings. The portrayal of grief, and the feeling of not wanting to accept loss is so real, and at times it was difficult to read, because it made me dwell on a lot of my own personal feelings dealing with grief, and the loss of loved ones. This again, truly highlights Caroline Scott’s incredible writing talents.
Towards the end of the story, we jump forward in time again, this time to 1925. The way this story concludes really wasn’t what I was expecting. But, all of the questions are answered, and it is wrapped up extremely well. Although it wasn’t the happy ending that I was expecting/wanted, it was a lot more realistic in regards to the aftermath of war. It shows that after the war, it wasn’t possible for everyone to got their happy ending, but there was always hope, and often closure in unexpected places.
Once again, Caroline Scott has created a beautifully emotive story, that brings the grief and pain of the aftermath of war to life. Her ability to do this really is like no other author I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to see what else she has for us in the future.
A massive thank you to Caroline Scott and Simon & Schuster for sending me a physical ARC, in exchange for an honest review.
I give When I Come Home Again a 5 star ratng.
About The Author:
After completing a PhD in History, at the University of Durham, Caroline Scott worked as a researcher in Belgium and France. 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 lives in southwest France and is now writing historical fiction for Simon & Schuster UK and William Morrow.
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