On November 14, 1940, the English city of Coventry is nearly flattened by German bombs. Harriet Marsh lost so much in World War I that she fails to really notice the changes that have occurred since the start of World War II, just going through the motions of her life. But the war hits her head on when she fills in for her injured elderly neighbor as a fire watcher on the roof of the Coventry cathedral. When the bombs start to fall and fire begins to consume the city, Harriet befriends another fire watcher, Jeremy Fisher, and the two brave the streets in search of Jeremy's mom, Maeve.
Helen Humphreys opens the book on the night of November 14, 1940, but goes back in time for a bit to show you the life Harriet lived just prior to the First World War. While only a glimpse of her life, the events that transpire greatly affect her, and you can understand how she became the woman standing on the roof of the Coventry cathedral. The book alternates between the points of view of Harriet and Maeve, an artist and somewhat of a drifter who is raising her son on her own. There is a solemn tone to the book, but as Maeve thinks back to happier times and the friendship between Harriet and Jeremy develops, there are glimmers of hope amidst so much death and destruction.
Coventry is a short book, just under 180 pages, and if I didn't have so much going on at home to interrupt my reading, I easily could have finished the book in a couple of hours. Humphreys' writing has a wonderful flow, and her descriptions of the bombs exploding and the buildings collapsing thrust you into the scene. Although there isn't a whole lot of character description, I understood the characters and their motiviations, and I was wrapped up in their lives from the very first page. It's not an easy read, considering the subject matter, and there were a few scenes that made me want to cry, but Humphreys brilliantly concludes the story. While I wish I could have had more time with the characters, the little time I had with them was precious, and I didn't feel as though she needed to say more.
Coventry by Helen Humphreys is the 6th book I've read for the WWII Reading Challenge I'm co-hosting with Serena at War Through the Generations.
Coventry also was reviewed by:
Peeking Between the Pages
FRESH INK BOOKS
A Season to Read
The Literate Housewife Review
Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker
If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Coventry from the publisher for review purposes.