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.
This is such a beautiful book. Exquisitely written using sensitive, evocative language, we really feel we are there in Cornwall and in the trenches in France during the Great War.
It’s 1923 and Esme has been widowed for seven years. Her husband of only a few months went to war in France but after two years of regular letters, they suddenly stopped. Then one fateful day the letter she dreads arrives and she is informed that he has died.
His death turns her life upside down and she has to sell their house and take a position with Mrs Fenella Pickering, whose brother Gilbert Edgerton lives in a community of ex-servicemen in a large house in Cornwall. Sharing the property and land with him, this group of young men fought alongside him in France during the First World War and are both mentally and physically scarred by their dreadful experiences.
It’s a scorching hot summer and Mrs Pickering has asked Esme to travel down to Cornwall to check out the state of Gilbert’s house – her previous visit did not go well – before she embarks on the journey herself. The sea air will be good for her health but the previous lack of facilities will not.
Esme is welcomed by the men and soon finds herself relaxing in their company. I loved the part where she learns how to swim for the first time in her life.
Esme also has a side job – she writes a weekly article for the Huddersfield Courier called ‘Nature Diary’ and it is here that we read about the beauty of her surroundings in Cornwall.
Can Esme finally put the past behind her and find happiness again? This story will have you wrapped up in its beauty. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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.