When I Come Home is the stunning new novel from Caroline Scott focussing on the time just after the First World War when so many military personnel coming home were affected emotionally and mentally by their experiences. I thought her first novel set in the same time period, The Photographer of the Lost, was excellent but I think this is even better.
The story begins with a man in army uniform being arrested in Durham Cathedral. He claims to have no idea who he is and no memory of his life before he was found. He is taken to a rehabilitation home under the care of Dr James Haworth who has his own demons haunting him from his war experience. James is determined to help Adam Galilee, as he is dubbed, to discover who he is and return him to his family. When an appeal is published in the newspaper along with Adam’s photograph, many people come forward to claim him, with three women in particular convinced that he is their son, brother or husband.
It is hard to imagine that so many people could be so convinced they knew Adam’s true identity. I wasn’t sure who I believed or indeed which of the women I wanted to believe! I can only imagine the desperation felt by those with no resolution to what happened to their loved ones in the war. What is especially moving is that the book is inspired by a true story. Appeals were made for relatives of soldiers with amnesia to come forward and sometimes multiple people did come forward thinking the same person was their loved one. Through this book we get a real sense of the longing and desperate hope that somehow, miraculously, a husband, son or brother could still be alive, even years after the war ended. As we read:
“Grief and hope are powerful emotions. What we see is sometimes what we want to see.”
When I Come Home Again is an emotionally engaging and compelling novel. It is a book I was totally absorbed in from the first page to the poignant final scenes. Caroline Scott is such a talented historical novelist, seamlessly working her research into the novel to create a rich reading experience. As well as showing the desperation of families yearning to know what had happened to their loved ones, we see clearly the emotional trauma experienced by so many who fought in the war. This is a powerful and emotional novel bringing home once again the futility of war and the long reaching after-effects on so many.
My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to the publishers for my review copy of the book. When I Come Home Again is available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook format. The paperback will follow next year. You should be able to buy or order a copy from your usual book retailer. Alteratively, you will find buying options on the Simon & Schuster website here: When I Come Home Again.
From the back of the book
They need him to remember. He wants to forget.
1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear 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. His doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.
When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there 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 war.
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. The Photographer of the Lost was a Radio 2 Book Club pick.