Reviews

When I Come Home Again – Caroline Scott

on
5 December 2020
When I Come Home Again Book Cover When I Come Home Again
Caroline Scott
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
29 October 2020
Kindle
400

**From the highly acclaimed author of The Photographer of the Lost, a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick** ‘A powerful story that’s achingly moving and most beautifully written. Readers of Maggie O’Farrell and Helen Dunmore are likely to enjoy’ Rachel Hore 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.

 

Memories

Just as the world was coming to the end of the World War I and the destruction it caused to so many lives, no one anticipated the psychological devastation it caused to the soldiers who fought and survived. Those physically scarred and maimed, and those thrown into a fugue mental state with personalities hijacked by horror and fear.

As a psychologist gradually and carefully investigates the conscious and subconscious mind of a patient, never pushing too hard and allowing realisation to settle in, so does Caroline Scott in the same tone as she gradually builds her story and the personalities of her characters. When I Come Home Again is a beautifully written novel with a pace that enables the atmosphere and period to coalesce with our appreciation of the wonderfully drawn characters and their nightmares. Memories are placed in solitude and hopefully will never see the light of day, lest terror and insanity grab hold. In the night, the screams tell of memories that have escaped from the subconscious mind. The mental turmoil that soldiers faced when those that want to help them remember, don’t realise the horror they are trying to forget. The mothers, wives, sisters that remember these men but now they only look like someone they once knew. Women who hold onto hope that their loved ones will eventually, fully return home again.

The tones and moods flow naturally like waves throughout the story and the landscape is observed as a new-found pleasure as if appreciating for the first time peering through an amnesic fog. The joy, beauty and wonderment of rolling countryside, a wood or a small village remind us of what we miss because we see it so often. The way Caroline kept the landscape an ever-present companion throughout the story was brilliantly delivered and embraced the constant revelations and discovery that sit right at the core of this novel.

A soldier in uniform is arrested for drawing chalk images in a Durham Cathedral and discovering he has total amnesia and doesn’t know his name they call him Adam Galilee and he is released into the care of Doctor James Haworth.

“Redemption sounds like a journey, and if that means travelling back through the scenes that sometimes flash at him in the night, Adam is not presently sure that he wants to go there.”

As it transpires Adam isn’t the only one suffering from the consequences of war as James himself was a military doctor during the Great War.

Caroline Scott’s book is masterfully told in this compelling and moving war-time story with such emotional impact that keeps you transfixed to its pages. It evokes such emotions that are a real insight into the loss and devasting impact war has on mental illness and psychological damage. The story comes to an emotional ending as connections are reunited and surprises add additional drama as the past is revealed.

I would like to thank Caroline Scott, Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.

TAGS
Peter Donnelly
Ireland

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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