The Poppy Wife / The Photographer of the Lost

Written by Caroline Scott
Review by Viviane Crystal

“Missing in Action” is a term many have heard. This is the story of a family who is living with that reality. To begin, three brothers who do everything together sign up to fight in the Great War. One dies and is buried, and Harry’s brother, Francis, is reported to be missing in action. Harry had seen Francis fall after he was shot in the stomach, but then Harry was wounded by collapsing barbed wire and spent time in a hospital.

Now both Harry and Francis’s wife, Edie, spend their days walking through fields and cemeteries in France and Belgium. Edie wonders how the brothers managed to handle the separation of their former closeness, which she describes like “deafness, blindness or losing a limb.” At one point, Francis had suggested that Harry would have taken up with Edie if Francis had been killed, an argument that turned physical and very upsetting for Harry. He later discovers his own words of “falling in love with a woman he shouldn’t have loved.” Harry hears Francis’s words in his mind: “I have spread my dreams under your feet… Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” Harry also describes the appearance of destroyed villages and fields, detailed devastation repeated to make the reader experience the full impact of war.

The nature of this journey is poignant, to say the least. Harry takes pictures of graves to send to families whose lost ones are buried in France or Belgium. Searing and stark, this novel will remain etched in the minds and hearts of readers everywhere. Momentous, revelatory and astonishing historical fiction!