Review: The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Publication Date: October 31, 2019
Simon & Schuster UK

Genre: Historical Fiction

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own...

An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I

‘Beautiful, unflinching, elegiac: The Photographer of the Lost is going to be on an awful lot of Best Books of the Year lists, mine included . . . it’s unforgettable’ Iona Grey, bestselling author of The Glittering Hour

1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother.

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history. The Photographer of the Lost is partially inspired by her family history.



Author Caroline Scott has taken my heart and tore it into a million pieces! The Photographer of the Lost is poignant, haunting and memorable and one of my top reads of the year.

One day Edie receives a mysterious letter in the post. There's no note, no explanation, only a photograph of her husband Francis that she has never seen before. Francis has been missing for four years after going MIA in the Great War. The photo confuses her but also revives her hope that he may still be alive.

Francis' brother Harry served alongside him, as did their other brother, Will. When Edie tells Harry about the photo of Francis she received he agrees to help her look into the photo and try to find out what happened to him. Harry is an artist but has taken up photography (which happened to be Francis' passion), to help people find the place where their loved one perished or were buried. He's also dealing with demons of his own - with one brother dead and the other missing, and the survivor's guilt that comes with it.

Scott's writing is superb and at times prose-like. It's the kind of writing that you want to savor and even read aloud to fully appreciate it. I loved this passage...

"They moved up through the old frontline, which was all wattle and hurdle and rotting wood. Harry was struck with how makeshift it all looked, how amateur and improvised and vulnerable. It felt like walking through ancient history and the sweet-rotten smell of it - sandbags spilled and other people's rubbish striated the earth walls like archeology. Harry looked at the mud-streaked fragments of candle wax and glass, the crumbling rust and the folds of hessian, and wondered who these people had been. Something about the old derelict trenches made them whisper."

It's incredibly sad to think about all the young men that never made it home, who died in a foreign land away from the people that loved them, and for all of the families that never knew what happened to their sons, husbands, brothers, and for all of the lives irrevocably changed forever. I think The Photographer of the Lost is a very important read and I highly recommend it! I will definitely be checking out Caroline Scott's other books. She's got a new fan in me!

About the Author

After completing a PhD in History, at the University of Durham, Caroline Scott worked as a researcher in Belgium and France. 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 lives in southwest France and is now writing historical fiction for Simon & Schuster UK and William Morrow.


  1. Sounds like another good perspective on the Great Wars. So many good books, each story so different.


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