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Review : The Visitors by Caroline Scott

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about The Visitors by Caroline Scott.

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book cover for The Visitors by Caroline Scott.  A woman in an orange dress sits on rocks overlooking the sea
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0929WJ8DK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster UK (9 Dec. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 2363 KB

Esme Nicholls is to spend the summer in Cornwall. Her late husband Alec, who died fighting in the war, grew up in Penzance, and she’s hoping to learn more about the man she loved and lost.

While there, she will stay with Gilbert, in his rambling seaside house, where he lives with his former brothers in arms. Esme is fascinated by this community of eccentric artists and former soldiers, and as she gets to know the men and their stories, she begins to feel this summer might be exactly what she needs.

But everything is not as idyllic as it seems – a mysterious new arrival later in the summer will turn Esme’s world upside down, and make her question everything she thought she knew about her life, and the people in it.

Book Review

This story is nothing like I thought it was going to be …

I’ve read The Photographer of the Lost and so knew Caroline Scott’s passion for bringing to light untold perspectives and stories from the Great War.  What I wasn’t expecting was how easy it was to empathise with Esme and become tangled up in all the emotions.

After losing Alec, Esme is trying to find where she belongs.  She’s gone from budding journalist to wife, then a gardener during the war, to widow and housekeeper.  And housekeeper isn’t the role she’s been educated for … 

Touching briefly on how displaced and disparaged the women were after the war, (it’s not just the men who had to adjust to change), Esme is hoping to come to some decisions during her summer stay in Cornwall.

And wow!  There are shocks and surprises while she’s in Cornwall staying at Esperance! 

There I was, enjoying the introspection and the pace of the story and getting to know the characters when BAM.  No! How could that be? 

Morally and ethically, this opens up so many questions.  I had no idea what Esme would do.  I understood her conflicting thoughts and emotions and have to say, held a great deal of respect for how she handles it.

I thought then I knew where the story was going (which I kind of did) but there’s still another surprise in store.  Was this ever going to go the way I wanted it to?  The suspense had me guessing.

I have to say that I FELT how unsettling life was for Esme.  When you don’t know what life holds for you anymore and you don’t have any ideas of what you can do next and you’re always second guessing yourself – exhausting and draining.  Especially when you’re a person who finds it difficult to cope without a plan (yep, that’s me). 

I understood the reluctance of Esperance’s occupants to talk about the war.  My dad was the same about WWII.  I found it quite emotive getting to know Gilbert and his brothers in arms – what their lives were like before the war and how it changed them.  Their experiences during the war are covered in Rory’s first hand account which is poignant and adds another layer to the story.

Esme’s column in the newspaper grounded me in the here and now whilst also giving valuable insights into the myths, legends, flora and fauna of the landscape.

The Visitors is an emotive story on many levels.  I think you can tell just how much I loved it 🙂

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. Twitter @CScottBooks

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