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Coventry: A Novel by Helen Humphreys

Coventry: A Novel (2008)

by Helen Humphreys

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
A remarkable depiction of what it would be like to be on the ground during the bombing of Coventry, and a beautiful exploration of the private grief created by public calamities. There were a few too many coincidences, and a few vague passages, but they stood out only because of the contrast to the rest of the book. ( )
  eachurch | Aug 4, 2016 |
Coventry by Helen Humphreys; acquired 02/03/2015; (4*)

(I read this on my Kindle yesterday on our 4 hour drive to our niece's wedding reception.)

It is such a beautiful story and Humphreys writes so beautifully. This one is about how people's lives can touch each others' even & perhaps especially on a night such as England suffered in the Coventry blitz. This is a wonderful book. Humphreys is so good with growing her characters. ( )
  rainpebble | Apr 25, 2016 |
Two women meet in 1918 but never exchange names and never see each other again. During WWII, the night Coventry was attacked, we follow the night of that event through the eyes of these same two women. It's a short book - I think I finished it in about an hour but I've always been interested in what people endured during the attacks on England in WWII. I didn't find this to be a very happy book, but interesting nonetheless. 3 1/2 stars. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
"As darkness falls on the evening of November 14, 1940, Harriet Marsh stands on the roof of the historic Coventry cathedral and marvels at the magnificence of frost glittering beneath a full moon. But it is a bomber's moon, and the Luftwaffe is coming to unleash destruction on the city. For Harriet; for the young fire watcher named Jeremy who stands beside her; and for his artist mother, Maeve, hiding in a cellar, this single night of horror will resonate for the rest of their lives.

"In a story of breathtaking beauty, Helen Humphreys captures brilliantly the terror of one of the most infamous bombing raids of the Second World War. As firestorms sweep through Coventry, horses run through the streets; birds burn as they fly; and historic buildings, including the cathedral, collapse. But as Harriet attempts to guide Jeremy through the burning city in search of his mother, she discovers in the midst of death a love she thought she had lost forever.

"Immersing herself in the actual events and compellingly re-creating the texture of life during the Blitz, Humphreys opens an extraordinary window to the past. Intertwining themes of love, yearning, and remembrance, she has crafted an entrancing story that promises to linger lo9ng after the book is closed."
~~front flap

The only reason I didn't give 5 stars was that the details of the bombing are so horrific that I don't think I could read the book again. But it's beautifully written, with exquisite descriptions of the emotions of Harriet and Maeve, of the burning buildings, of the destruction raining down from the sky, of how people behave when terrified, of the ironic humor of what's spared and what's lost, of who's spared and who's lost. I don't think there could ever be a better description of what it was like to live through the Blitz. ( )
  Aspenhugger | Dec 24, 2015 |
On November 14, 1940, the Germans bombed the hell out of Coventry. Most of this story takes place over the terrible night that the city of Coventry was destroyed, and its citizens lost everything. There was a bomber's moon that night, and the city was outlined as clear as possible. The blackout curtains were not going to help deceive the bombers as they set out to destroy the factories, and in doing so destroyed the lives of everyone in that city. The story follows Harriet Marsh who was a firewatcher on the roof of the cathedral that night, along with a young man named Jeremy. As they search through the burning city looking for Jeremy's mother, Maeve, the horrors of bodies buried in the rubble, and lying in the street are told vividly. There is a flashback to 1914, as the newly married Harriet sees her husband board a train on his way to fight in Ypres. On her way back to their apartment, she runs into a woman sketching the cathedral. She and this woman hit it off, and spend the afternoon together, but they never see each other again, until the night Coventry is bombed. Parts of the story are told from Maeve's point of view, as she looks for and worries about her son Jeremy.

Humphreys tells the story beautifully, and her descriptions of the burning city were inspired by accounts told by the survivors of that night. I will definitely seek out other books by Helen Humphreys.

Read January 2015 ( )
  NanaCC | Jul 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Similar to her 2002 novel, The Lost Garden, Helen Humphreys’ sixth novel is concerned with finding one’s bearings in a world made unrecognizable by war. During the Second World War, on the night of the devastating Coventry blitz of November 14, 1940, widow Harriet Marsh finds herself navigating the streets of the town as German bombs explode around her.....Humphreys’ poetic language and imagery, though at times seemingly at odds with the narrative, frequently bring to vivid life the brutality and violence of that night in 1940.
Modest but satisfying, this quietly moving novel of two women's ordeal through hours of fire and fear avoids all showy gestures.
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Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows

Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

-Philip Larkin
For my parents.
First words
The swallow arcs and dives above the cathedral.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393067203, Hardcover)

On the night of the Luftwaffe's devastating bombing of Coventry, two women traverse the city and transform their hearts.

Helen Humphreys draws on history to delve into the lives torn asunder by the German attack of November 14, 1940. Harriet, a widow from World War I, is atop Coventry Cathedral, part of the nightly watch, when first the factories and then the church itself are set on fire. In the ensuing chaos she bonds with a young man, very much like the husband she lost, who relies on her to find the way back to his home where he left his mother. On their journey through a hell of burning shops and collapsed homes, Harriet awakens to emotions she had long put aside. At home, the youth's mother awaits his arrival and rethinks the life that has brought her to this city and her life raising her son alone. Ultimately, together these two women must face a world as immeasurably changed as their own selves.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Harriet and Maeve meet on the streets of Coventry, England, in 1914. Both are of troubled mind: Harriet's husband has just left for the battlegrounds of France, and Maeve can't shake a deep sense of loneliness. The women share laughs on a bus ride, but afterwards their lives continue on different paths. Harriet's husband, Owen, goes missing (and is presumed killed) in action, and Harriet spends the next two decades mourning his loss. Maeve becomes pregnant out of wedlock and works a string of odd jobs to raise her son, Jeremy. In the chaos of the German bombing of Coventry in 1940, Harriet befriends Jeremy, who, at 22, stirs intense memories of Owen. Together, they search the town for Jeremy's mother and forge an intense bond.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393067203, 0393337553

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