A hauntingly beautiful book of the First World War and the immediate aftermath, this is a powerful novel of the missing. Told from two points of view, this is the story of Harry and Edie, brother and wife of the missing Francis. This novel is not only about the conditions in the trenches, the reality of warfare, but also the mysteries that were left behind. Of the three brothers that went to war, it is Harry who is on a mission to take photographs on behalf of the families and loved ones of those who did not return; photographs of graves, of places where men were last seen alive, of places important to the lost men. Edie is one of so many women who saw their husbands go to war, only to discover that he changed before they ultimately disappeared. There are so many questions about the men who did not return, so many requests for photographs, that a theme of unresolved grief dominates the story. As Harry tries to deal with his memories and his feelings, this novel draws pictures of villages destroyed and lives changed forever. This book is a brilliantly written evocation of a world changed, of loss and memory, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book in advance of its publication.
The book opens with Edie receiving a photograph. The anonymous envelope gives no clues as to the origin of an image which could show her husband, who was listed as missing several years before 1921. Harry is now a photographer who represents Mr Lee, whose advertisement is reproduced. For those who have lost loved ones, Harry will take photographs of graves and special places. People unable to actually visit are given a memento of what is left. Harry’s progress around the graves which vary from the hurriedly dug to the carefully designed is marked by his memories of travelling to the trenches himself with Francis and William, his older and younger brothers. He had sketched and tried to capture what he saw, put down the difficult and impossible to comprehend. Meanwhile Edie is searching for answers, as to what happened to the man who she loved, the way he changed. She can see in Harry aspects of her husband, a more than sympathetic friend. Harry encounters people who have their own challenges, their own feelings to cope with, and tries to reconstruct the buildings and experiences which have changed his own life.
This is an almost painfully beautiful book, full of unresolved feelings, love and other emotions which come to dominate the narrative. The dialogue between the characters, especially the brothers, is an amusing aspect of a book which revels in the creation of memorable characters. Brilliantly researched, this is a novel to treasure for the depth of feelings it evokes, for the atmosphere of a landscape blighted by a total war, and the whisps of hope that remain for men unseen for so long. This is a book which will be well worth seeking out, and worth treasuring for its creation of a world destroyed, but worth rebuilding.
As for the giveaway, well, to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the proof of this wonderful book, just comment on this post below. Remember to leave details of how I can contact you please! This book is not due to be published until the 31st October, so you would be well ahead. So why not try your luck? Many thanks to the lovely Anne Cater who has organised this tour and will sort out the winner from the comments below!