Review: The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott


Title: The Poppy Wife

Author: Caroline Scott

Published: November 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read October 2019, Simon & Schuster AU


My Thoughts:

A story of love, loss, guilt, and hope, The Poppy Wife is a moving and poignant debut from Caroline Scott.

Three years after the end of the Great War, Edie receives a photograph of her husband in the mail. There is no note with the photo, in which Edie thinks Francis looks much older than when she saw him last just months before he was declared missing in action, and only a blurred French postmark provides any clues as to its origin. Unable to ignore the possibility her husband somehow survived the war, Edie travels to France in search of answers.

Harry has never doubted his older brother died that day in the mud of Ypres, he saw the bullets rip through his body on the battlefield. So, as Harry travels the French countryside photographing graves for mourning relatives in England, he searches for his brother’s resting place. Yet as long as Francis remains listed as MIA, neither officially dead or alive, perhaps he, and Edie, have cause to hope.

The Poppy Wife is a stunning story moving between two timelines. The first during the final years of WWI primarily explores Harry’s experience of war, fighting alongside his brothers along the Front. The second takes place in 1921, where the narrative shifts between the perspectives of Edie and Harry as they travel independently, and together, searching for any sign of Francis.

Scott highlights a devastating aspect of the WWI’s aftermath in The Poppy Wife. During the war hundreds of thousands of fallen soldiers were buried without proper records, and after its end, the final resting place of almost as many remained unidentified. This left some families in limbo, never absolutely certain about the fate of their loved one. For many years after the war, the loved ones of the ‘lost’ journeyed to countries such as France and Belgium in the hopes of either finding their father or son, brother or husband alive, or proof of their death.

It is an emotionally harrowing journey for both Edie and Harry, and Scott skilfully communicates their struggle with their warring feelings of hope, guilt, and despair. Harry also finds himself constantly confronted by memories of the trauma he experienced on the battlefield, and the loss of both his brothers, and friends.

Beautifully written, with description that evokes the horror of war, the battle scarred lands of France, and the fraught emotions of the characters, The Poppy Wife is a stirring and thoughtful story.


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