Friday, April 3, 2009

Coventry by Helen Humphreys

'She tightens her grip on Jeremy's hand. We are the lucky ones, she thinks. The ones who have escaped. The unlucky ones were sheltering under their furniture, or crouched in their cellars, when the whole house dropped to its knees, drowning them in bricks and beams, burying them under everything they once held dear.' (from Coventry, page 78)

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
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.


Serena said...

Great review! I can't wait to get to this one!

Cathy said...

Sounds like a good'un. I've added it to my wish list. Thanks for the review!

Mari said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the great review. I should be starting another book for the challenge soon. :)

ANovelMenagerie said...

I have a review copy of this book on my TBR. I hope that I like it!

Staci said...

Excellent review and I like that fact that it's under 200 pages and the writing makes for a fast read. Definitely another one that I'm going to add to my list!!

Marg said...

I really want to read this one! I have a feeling I am meant to be getting it from someone but I have kind of lost track.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I desperately need something short, as I am getting depressed with my Gone With the Wind reading. When will I ever finish it?

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like wonderful book, Anna. And, of course, it is set during a time period I like to read about. :-) Thank you for the great review.

Darlene said...

Great review Anna. I loved this book. My only complaint was I would have loved if it had been much longer. I love Humphrey's writing, all of her books flow in much the same way.

Blodeuedd said...

Sounds good :) but very very short

Ladytink_534 said...

Great review Anna! I haven't read anything set in this time period for awhile but this sounds really good!

ibeeeg said...

Thanks for the review...I am going to put this one on my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

Great review and sounds like a darn good book. Books don't have to be looooooong to be great reads.

Marie Cloutier said...

sounds like a winner! thanks for the great review. this one's going on my wishlist.

bermudaonion said...

Great review! The book sounds fascinating.

The Bookworm said...

sounds interesting, nice review!

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful review Anna! This one is on mt. TBR.

Anonymous said...

This does sound like a tough one to read.

Wanda said...

Wow, I like this cover too — different than the edition I read but still with that haunting quality about it. Loved your review Anna, glad to learn you enjoyed your time with this book.

Anna said...

Serena: I hope you read it soon. I'm dying to discuss it with you over lunch.

Cathy: Thanks for stopping by! I hope you get a chance to read it.

Mari: I can't wait to see what challenge book you read next!

ANovelMenagerie: I think you will like it. At least I hope so. ;)

Staci: Thanks! I love it when a book is short and oh-so-good.

Marg: I had to get a notebook to keep track of my books, it was getting that crazy! I hope you get a chance to read this one.

Sandy: Gone With the Wind is a long one. I remember really liking it though.

Literary Feline: I know you'd like this one. Glad you enjoyed the review.

Dar: I'm glad to hear her other books are as good. I'll have to check them out some time.

Blodeuedd: It was too short and I wish it had been longer, but at least the story felt finished.

Ladytink: Of all the WWII books I've read, this is among my favorites, and that's because the writing was just so good.

ibeeeg: I do hope you get a chance to read it!

Marvin: Very true!

Marie: Thanks! I bet you'd like this one.

Bermudaonion: Thanks! This is among my favorites for the year.

Naida: Thanks!

Teddy Rose: Thanks! Can't wait to hear what you think of it.

Nicole: It was tough, but it wasn't as graphic as some of the WWII books I've read.

Wanda: Thanks!

Amanda said...

Thank you for your comment on my review of Coventry. I too wished it could have been longer. It packed so much in such a short book. I still remember that man who offered her tea in the middle of all the chaos. I'd love if you'd add my review to the War Through the Generations review page. Thank you so much!

Anna said...

Amanda: Thanks!