Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

Fiction, Paperback 180 pgs.

Harper Collins

This was my first novel by Helen Humphreys. I have read her previous book, The Frozen Thames, which deserves its place as a #1 national bestseller in non-fiction. This woman certainly knows her history.

In deceptively simple language Humphreys here portrays the night of November 14, 1940 and the bombing of Coventry , England during World War Two. Harriet has been a widow since the First World War. Through her eyes we experience unending hours of destruction and terror, but there is kindness and love too. She starts out on fire watch on the roof of Coventry Cathedral, which does not survive, and ends up with Maeve who searches for her son throughout the city that is burning and reduced to rubble.
This is a novel with heart, a story of shared tragedy. So much is lost to the people of Coventry, life will never be the same for any of them. Humphreys' writing is beautiful, as when Maeve, rushing home from the bomb shelter hoping to find her son there, sees tin soldiers in formation on his bedroom windowsill and realizes that they are young Jeremy's " last station of childhood ". He had tried to enlist but was turned down because he is colour blind. He was on fire watch with Harriet and they spent some hours helping with the injured where they could and dodging falling incendiaries and collapsing buildings in an attempt to get home.
The details of the history are accurate and the novel ends with an epilogue about the dedication of the newly rebuilt cathedral some twenty years after the war. I wanted to begin reading this book again as soon as I'd finished it, not something that usually happens with me. I will be rereading it to enjoy the way language is used in the story, and I look forward to reading her other novels. A very satisfying read that I can recommend to everyone. Five stars.
Thank you to Deanna at Harper Collins Canada for providing me with a review copy.

Other Harper Collins books I have enjoyed recently:

Breath**** by Tim Winton (Australia)
Day**** by A.L.Kennedy(UK)
Broken Colors**** by Michele Zackheim (US)
Skeletons at the Feast**** by Chris Bohjaian (US)
Atmospheric Disturbances**** by Rivka Galchen
The Letter Opener***+ by Kyo Maclear
The Line Painter**** by Claire Cameron
Run by Ann Patchett****
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett****
The Yiddish Policemen's Union**** by Michael Chabon



  1. Oh, what a great review! I think I'd like this one!

  2. I got this one for Christmas, it does sound good!

  3. Followed your link over from my blog and thought, "this sounds familiar...". I guess I should scroll down before I read, lol!

    Enjoyed your review (again), Sandra. :)

  4. What a fantastic review!

    I will check the book out, as it sounds fascinating.

  5. I'm passing this award forward to you.

  6. This sounds like an excellent selection for the WWII challenge. your review, as usual, was absolutely wonderful.

  7. Excellent review. I really enjoy reading historical fiction and as I don't know much about what happened to England during WWII this sounds like a great and informative read!!

  8. Great review! Sounds like a must read for me!

    I've created a post for this review here on War Through the Generations, and I added the link to the book review page as well.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. This is now a must-read for me. My gram lived in Coventry during this time period and has told me several stories about her experiences. I'm sure to get a clearer picture of what she's been telling me when I read this book!

    (here from the WWII Challenge blog)

  10. Welcome to the WWII challenge.

    Did you reread this one? Looks like this is a repost of a previous review.

    I hadn't heard of this book...thanks for the review.

  11. Serena* Yes, this was my first ARC for a publicist and I read it at my fast speed,a bad habit I have when I'm nervous. And the review was caught in the middle of my move from my old site to Blogger and only one friend saw it. If rereads don't count for the challenge, no problem. I have several others that qualify.

  12. Sandra: Re-reads are fine. I was just yanking your chain. Great review! I look forward to more from everyone participating.

  13. I saw the link to your review at Medieval Bookworm and had to come check it out. I loved this book when I read it last year, but more importantly my Grandma loved it and she lived in Coventry during this time period. She said it was a very accurate representation of what her life was like during the bombings. If you are interested, you can check out my review here.



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