All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

on November 23, 2020

When I Come Home Again
Caroline Scott
Simon & Schuster AUS
2020, 480p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home. His doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war. 

This book had one of the most fascinating premises I’ve seen in a long time.

It’s the end of WWI and a man with no memory of who he is, but wearing a uniform is found. Dedicated doctors try to work with him to help him grasp those memories but little progress is made and so they have his photo taken and put in the newspaper, asking those to come forward if they know him. They are shocked by the influx of people all convinced that this man is their son, their husband, their brother. They narrow the inquiries down to 3 – an older woman seeking her son Robert, a sister seeking her brother Ellis, needing help to care for his children and a woman named Anna seeking her husband Mark. All three women are sure that this man, named Adam by the police that found him, is their lost loved one. Each of them is so convinced, they cannot believe the doctors just do not release Adam to them immediately. But for the most part, Adam does not find any meaning in meeting with these people, visiting where they live….he remains firmly convinced that whoever he is, he is most likely not the man any of them seek. He himself draws a face over and over again, although he doesn’t know who the person is that he draws, only that he misses her.

This is a book that highlights the sort of trauma men experienced in the war – it’s not just Adam and whatever it is he’s repressing. But when he goes to live at a…I don’t want to say institution, it’s more a respite house for men who are traumatised from the war, you get a glimpse into the situations of several of the other men who pass through. There’s a real struggle I think, to understand how brutal some of those fights were. Talks of guns going by the way side and fighting for your life using your fists and fear. I think it also says a lot of how much isn’t understood about the human brain and psyche. For example, the man known as Adam has experienced something so traumatic, so devastating that his mind has basically blocked out everything of his past. Not just the war but his whole life. And he is somewhat resistant to some of the help on offer. It’s clear that he is well aware that there are things he doesn’t want to relive. And with the people that turn up, convinced that Adam is their loved one….James, the doctor, believed that they thought that Adam really was their loved one. Truly believed it. It shows, I guess, what a powerful motivator desperation can be. When someone has a chance of being reunited with a loved one, perhaps there isn’t anything that they’re willing to not believe in order for it to happen. Even after James decides that some of the cases are not valid, they refuse to accept his decision. Perhaps to believe in Adam as their loved one but not willing to return to them, is better than to accept the alternative. That their loved one is gone forever. And with the lack of a body sometimes, after war, there’s no closure.

I know that life isn’t perfect. And I think this is based on a true story, although how much it takes from that, I don’t know. However, I found the ending frustrating. And a bit sad. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way at all. I think it’s definitely thought provoking and would be such a great topic of conversation for a book club, or group of friends. There’s such a lot to unpack with this and it’s the sort of story which is so complex that it was unlikely it would be a neat, all-things-tied-in-a-bow ending. There were probably so many families that never got the answers they needed after the war ended, when people they loved didn’t come home. There were probably so many situations where the men who fought and returned, did so with scars that never healed. And that affected them and those around them for the rest of their lives. There must be so many stories similar to Adam’s, people who lost themselves and couldn’t be unlocked. Perhaps means like the ones employed here helped find the answers, perhaps they did not.

A really gripping, interesting read.


Book #229 of 2020


2 responses to “Review: When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

  1. Glad to read this review. I have this one waiting for review so it’s good to know what I’m in for.

  2. Izabel Brekilien says:

    Thanks for sharing, it seems it would be perfect to start a discussion, indeed 🙂

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