|Simon & Schuster
25 November 2021
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
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.
Esme Nicholls is still grieving the loss of her husband whose death in WW1 has left her not only with a lasting legacy of sadness, but also a desperate need to put the lost pieces of her husband back together. On the advice of her employer, Esme spends a summer at Espérance, a house in Cornwall, ostensibly to discover more about the area her husband grew up in, but, whilst there, she gets to know the group of ex-soldiers, who make Espérance their home.
The Visitors is a poignant and compelling story about surviving great loss, not just the loss of a life partner but also the loss of self which has been brought about by experiencing, and surviving, great psychological trauma. Set some years after the end of the war there is still a noticeable burden of sorrow carried by those who survived what they had seen, and experienced, in Northern France. This eclectic band of brothers, all survivors of the Great War, hide their troubles behind an air of bravado and glorious eccentricities and even as they shield their sadness under cloaks of respectability, their hidden horrors are all too evident.
Thoughtfully written, and meticulously researched, detailed aspects of the war come through in poignant snippets of a memoir written by Rory, a gentle soul, whose trauma runs deep and whose burgeoning friendship with Esme is sensitively expressed. Esme herself is quietly introspective, her sense of loss is palpable and yet, when needed, she shows such utter strength of character that it quite broke my heart to see her diminished by a set of circumstances she could never have imagined.
Beautifully reminiscent of a fractured time in history, the gentle eloquence of the novel shines through with every well written word as, once again, this talented story teller gives us a powerful and poignant story which shines the spotlight on human frailty, the horror of war, and its devastating aftermath.
About the Author
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.
Twitter @CScottBooks #TheVisitors