I adored Caroline Scott’s The Photographer of the Lost reviewed here. It was one of my top reads in 2019. Sadly her next novel When I Come Home Again is still awaiting my attention so I knew I had to break all my intentions not to accept new blog tours and read Caroline’s latest book, The Visitors. My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate. It’s a real privilege to close the tour and I’m thrilled to share my review today.
The Visitors was published by Simon and Schuster on 9th December 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.
From the highly acclaimed author of The Photographer of the Lost, a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick, comes a tale of a young war widow and one life-changing, sun-drenched visit to Cornwall in the summer of 1923…
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.
Full of light, laughter and larger-than-life characters, The Visitors is a novel of one woman finally finding her voice and choosing her own path forwards.
My Review of The Visitors
Esme is on her way to Cornwall.
It’s going to be hard to convey quite what a beautiful book The Visitors is. It has a luminosity and an almost ethereal allure that captivates from the very first sentence. I was completely lost between the pages of The Visitors. The quality of Caroline Scott’s prose is astounding. It is lyrical and occasionally brutal so that not only do we have a real insight into the very souls of the characters, but our own emotions are heightened by reading this story. Descriptions are so vivid and clear it almost felt as if I were there with the characters, and the intimacy of their lives touched me completely.
The plot is exquisitely crafted, blending Esme’s nature writing and her time in Cornwall alongside the men’s experiences in WW1 to perfection. The balance of light and shade between the settings is heart rending and adds to the heightened sensation of reading The Visitors. I genuinely felt physical emotion reading this narrative, like an ache deep inside, because it is so sensitive and touching. I think that what works so well in The Visitors is the authenticity of even the most dramatic aspects of the plot. It feels as if the author has written with her heart and soul as well as with meticulously researched authority.
I loved all the characters because they are so fully rounded and convincing. Initially I loathed Sebastian because of the way he reacted to Esme, but by the end of The Visitors I understood completely why each person in this story behaved the way they did. I’m not sure I forgive them all their actions and this is one of the successes of the story. Caroline Scott doesn’t preach or steer her reader to any particular conclusion so that the narrative resonates long after the story is finished. Cornwall itself feels as much a character as any of the humans as it is so perfectly, visually, described, but Esme is the real star of the narrative. She embodies the hopes and fears, the trials and tribulations of an entire generation of women. Her uncertainty about her position in society, her present and future roles and the way she questions the veracity of her past make her fascinating and frequently heart-breaking. In Esme, Caroline Scott has afforded the reader a crystal clear glimpse into post war England and given them a whole new understanding of how lives were altered.
The themes of The Visitors are very much of the era, but equally resonate today, making this such an affecting read. Friendship and loyalty, love and relationships, trauma and healing, the power of nature and the spoken or written word, forgiveness and personal growth weave through the pages in a glorious mosaic of meaning that I found enthralling. I loved the ultimate message of making the most of life, of being creative and of forgiving ourselves as well as others.
The Visitors is a beautiful book. That beauty comes through glorious prose, perfect storytelling and wonderful characterisation but somehow those elements seem to blend into something far greater than the sum of their parts. This is a haunting book that will linger with me for a very long time. I absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Caroline Scott
Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.
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