When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott
November 1918, after the end of World War 1, a man enters Durham Cathedral. He witnesses a bird trapped inside the cathedral, trying to get out. A woman calls out to him as if she knows him, but it’s not his name she uses. He doesn’t know what his name is, or where he has come from. All he knows is that he feels like that trapped bird and its desperate attempt to break free.
They name him Adam Galilee and he is sent to recuperate at a country home where they deal with the war-wounded, the men who have come back with terrible psychological scars.
The doctors try to get him to remember, but he can’t, or doesn’t want to. James, one of his doctors, takes a personal interest in his case, perhaps because he too has battle scars. James is married to Caitlin, whose twin brother was lost in battle. He served alongside James, who feels terrible guilt for the brother’s death. So much guilt and misery has come home with the men who did survive.
Eventually a newspaper prints a story about Adam in the hope that somebody will recognise him. There is a flurry of interest in his case with many people coming forward to claim him. It is narrowed down to three women, who are all convinced they know him. One thinks he is her son, another her brother, and the third says he is her husband. All of them spend time with Adam in an attempt to get him to open up.
Adam, however doesn’t feel that he belongs to any of them. Instead he draws endless pictures of a woman he claims to see in the woods. He also shows he has a gift for plants and gardening and spends a lot of time in the forest.
There is so much sadness and desperation in this story, but there is also a sense of hope, that eventually Adam will find out who he is. It is beautifully written, and gently told. It is a reminder of the futility of the war and the devastating effect it had on both the surviving soldiers and the people they left behind at home. Rebuilding shattered lives and dealing with emotional and physical scars that they carry for life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. It’s a great reminder of what is a fairly recent event in history and how those events shaped the lives of those that were involved.
Reviewer: Rachel White
Simon & Schuster