BOOK CLUB: When I Come Home Again

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“When I Come Home Again” by Caroline Scott is a novel that has a strong impact. I found it took a while to fully absorb it, and I’m still thinking about it days later. I found it moving, more emotional than I expected, and well worth my time.

In 1918, a soldier is found in Durham Cathedral. He has no identification, and can’t remember his own name, or any details of his past. Eventually, those treating him make a public enquiry for help, and are promptly besieged by hundreds of people – primarily women – all sure he is the soldier whose return they’ve been waiting for. They can’t all be right. Adam and his carers must sort through the crowd to try to reunite him with the correct family.

Meanwhile, James Haworth, the psychologist trying to help Adam recover his memories, is fighting his own demons resulting from his war service. They may in fact be much the same as Adam’s demons, but James is clearly dealing with them in a very different way – but not necessarily a better one.

The prose is an unusual style, an observational style with a little distance that evokes the stiff upper lip that the British are so proud of, while showing the vulnerability that so often lies beneath. It’s a slower read than some novels, but I appreciated that. It reflected the time that passed in the novel, and also gave me an opportunity to think about what I was reading en route (so to speak) rather than just reflecting when I’d finished.

“When I Come Home Again” is very interested in the nature of love, and hope, and sorrow, and perhaps in wishful thinking too. Or is that just love? When so many women are convinced that the anonymous soldier is their husband, brother, lover, is it wishful thinking, or steadfast love, or crippling grief that makes them blind to reality?

Adam’s story is nominally the focus of the novel, but the stories of James Haworth and three of the women most determined to believe he is “theirs” are equally important. Obviously, we know at once that not all of them are right. And yet all believe with absolute certainty that they are. Part of the intrigue of the novel is trying to work out which woman you believe.

But along the way, the novel asks you to consider not just the trauma of the men who fought in World War I, but the trauma of those waiting for them to return. And even more so, the trauma of those whose loved ones never return – especially if their fate is only assumed, but can’t be proven.

It doesn’t go at all where you expect it to, and yet the ending does feel very right – it grows naturally out of what has gone before. There is both sadness and hope in it, and in a sense that may be the message of the novel: that both are a natural part of life.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading When I Come Home Again by Caroline ScottYou can read their comments below, or add your own review.

11 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: When I Come Home Again

  1. When I Come Home Again. by Caroline Scott

    In 1918, at the end of the First World War, a soldier is arrested defacing Durham Cathedral. The police can get no information from him – who he is, where has he come from, where he lives, where is he going? The police give him the name Adam Galilee. He is released into the care of Doctor James Haworth, who is a doctor at Fellside House, a soldiers rest home.
    Despite repeated questioning, Adam cannot remember anything. He seems to have been walking for weeks, staying in barns and living from hand outs. The uniform he is wearing seems to be his own, as it fits him, and his boots also fit well. It appears that he has served in France. He has nightmares, and is diagnosed with Retroactive amnesia following emotional shock. He has absolutely no memory of his name, his home, his family, or having spent any time serving as a soldier. He can speak fluently on subjects that interest him, and has lots of retained knowledge, but some horror is blocking years from his memory.
    After months of therapy and care, Adam is no closer to recalling anything about his life. He has a talent for drawing, and begins to work in the gardens at Fellside House, restoring the once orderly walled kitchen garden. He sketches detailed pictures of fruit, plants, trees and also of a woman’s face. Always the same face. But he does not know who the woman is.
    The doctors at Fellside decide to place a newspaper article with a photo of Adam, asking does anyone know him, explaining that he has returned from war with no knowledge of who he is. They receive almost a hundred replies, mostly from women, who think Adam is their missing family member. Interviews are conducted with these people, and one by one they are dismissed, as details do not match up, until 3 women are left. Each of these women claim that Adam belongs to them. Celia says she is his mother, Lucy says she is his sister and left caring for his two children after the death of their mother, and Anna says she is his wife.
    Dr James Haworth holds further interviews with each of these three women, and when they meet Adam, they declare he is their missing person, but Adam does not react to any of them. Gradually, Adam and James visit each woman at their home. Still Adam does not remember the women, but something is triggered at each house, some inner knowledge of where things are.
    How will the doctors decide who Adam belongs to if he cannot remember? All of the women are so convinced that Adam is theirs.

    This is an unusual look at the heart wrenching Missing in Action war stories. It is based on true events, and is a deeply moving story that will stay with me for ages. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Simon & Schuster books for the chance to read this book. It’s one I won’t forget in a hurry.

  2. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Simon Schuster for the opportunity to read ‘When I Come Home Again’ by Caroline Scott.
    This book was amazing, I loved every page!
    It begins in November 1918 in the Durham Cathedral where a man has been capured by the police and is presumed to be a soldier.
    He’d done damage in the cathedral and his memory of how he’d got there or what his identity was remained a mystery to him and the police.
    They name him Adam Galilee, he is collected by James Haworth and taken to Fellside House owned by Dr Shepherd and expected with treatment there, to recover.
    It is believed that publishing his photograph in the newspaper may result in his family to come forward to claim him and it return help him recover his memories.
    They are overwhelmed by the interest and narrow it down to three women convinced he belongs to them. A mother, a sister and a wife respectively.

    The book is based on a true story, is touching, interesting and very credible. I particularly enjoyed the nature, the herbal and gardening references.
    Such an enjoyable book, very difficult to put down.
    ‘The Poppy Wife’ also by Caroline Scott is a book that I’m now anxious to read!

  3. To be honest, this book, When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott, was an effort for me to read. I was really looking forward to reading it as it had seemed right up my alley, but it was a hard slog. I can’t even describe why it was hard to read, it just was. I kept persisting though and it really was well worth it in the end. The ending wasn’t what I hoped for, but the storyline was nicely wrapped up and very satisfying. Thank you Beauty and Lace for letting me read this book >:o)

  4. A compelling story based on a true story and one so relevant of the effects of war.
    Based around Adam, as he was named, and three women who each claim him to belong to them.
    Who is Adam really? As the story evolves my hope for him changed many times.
    A beautifully written and moving story. A must read to the end!

  5. Thank you for the opportunity to read When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott.

    This was a story of life after WW1. Not all soldiers made it home from war. Those that did were either affected physically or mentally. This also had a flow on effect to their loved ones.

    The story is about a soldier found after the war who doesn’t remember any details of his past, nor his name. He is given the name Adam and efforts are made to return his memories. He is taken to Fellside House for soldiers who have different issues after the war and is primarily seen by Dr James Hayworth. He doesn’t appear to want to recall at most stages. One of the ways they try to assist is putting his details and a photo in the paper. This garners a large response and we are taken to three people’s stories, all of them convinced he is their loved one. This turns into a difficult exercise in Adam trying to see if he fits in to their lives. Dr Hayworth also has his issues in relation to his war servvice.

    All of this is an interesting story which is woven through with many botanical references which really bring the scenes to life and give Adam a real personality. Also, this is based on a true story which makes it even more amazing.

    There are so many side stories that there was a lot to think about. I thought I knew how it would end, but I was wrong. There were times I thought it was moving a little slowly, but looking back a lot actually happened. If readers love history and the impact of war this is a great read and I am still thinking of the implications.

  6. When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott is a novel based on true events hinging on the search of hope after the awful consequences of war.

    After a soldier is arrested, it becomes clear to the authorities that he can’t remember who he is or what happened to him. Determined to help him remember, they give him the name Adam but does Adam really want to remember the awful atrocities of war?

    I was really looking forward to reading this novel but unfortunately, it took me a while to really get into it. Maybe I am not used to the author’s writing style as I struggled during the first part of the book, but found it easier to read halfway through and I am glad I continued to the end. If I put all that aside, I did find the novel deeply moving .

    Thank you Beauty & Lace for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  7. Fabulous read. Adam comes back from the First World War but has no memory of who he is or where he comes from. He ends up at a Rehab home under the care of a doctor who is also back from the war and has his own problems. Many families are convinced he is their brother , son , husband . Does he want to be? Is he intentionally suppressing his memories? This makes for a great thought provoking story.

  8. Thank you to the Beauty and Lace Book club for the opportunity to review this book.
    I found it to be a heartbreaking story of love and loss as a result of the War. I found it to be especially sad as it is based on a true story. I would recommend this book to other readers.

  9. Thank you for the opportunity to read When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott – I was intrigued by the story of Adam and how so many women wanted to claim him as their own and it really pulled at the heartstrings as this was based on a true story and how so many men were listed as missing during the war and the desperation of these women to find their loved ones even if is was obvious that Adam was not their loved one and the other storyline of James and Caitlin and their relationship trying to get back to normal after the war and a personal tragedy and how it affects them: Overall a great read although I did find it a bit long

  10. Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read this book, I absolutely loved reading every page of it. The fact that it was based on true event made it even more interesting.

    Those were the tough times for soldiers who spent so much time fighting in the war and when it was time to relax they had no where to go and some of them don’t even remember where they belong.
    Very interesting storyline and very well written by the author. It is also a bit sad to know all the events that has happened in a different ways. Very touching and must read for those who loves history!

  11. I was not a real fan of this book,struggled to get into it but also found I couldn’t give up on it either. Was glad I made it to the end as all the pieces finally fell into place and I connected with the ending. I really felt for all the characters with the loss they must have been feeling not knowing where their loved ones were and of course Adam who had his memory erased

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