A Novel

Book - 2008
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On the evening of November 14, 1940, Harriet stands on the roof of the cathedral in the British town of Coventry and marvels at the magnificence of frost glittering beneath a full moon. But it is a bomber's moon. The Germans are coming to unleash destruction. For Harriet, Jeremy, the young man who shares her duties as a firewatcher, and his free-spirited mother, Maeve, this single night will resonate for the rest of their lives.
    In a story of breathtaking beauty, with the wondrous poetic style that has earned her international acclaim, Helen Humphreys recreates the terror of the infamous Second World War bombing raid on Coventry. As Harriet and Jeremy make their way through the burning city in search of Maeve, their trek becomes a journey of fear and awe as they witness butter from the dairy flowing down the streets in a burning stream and landmines on parachutes swimming like jellyfish out of the darkness. Cold dread brings to life both a grief and a love that Harriet thought she had put behind her forever.
    Drawing on actual events of that horrific night in 1940, Coventry is an astounding work, at once tense and lyrical, shocking and exquisite. Touching on themes of love, loss, loneliness and remembrance, Humphreys has crafted a story that will seize readers' hearts and imaginations.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, 2008.
ISBN: 9780002007269
Characteristics: 177 pages ; 20 cm


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martins_mom Feb 26, 2016

I think Humphreys has grown into herself. This is one of her earlier works and is rather self-consciously 'poetic'.

Aug 08, 2015

Skillfully written and obviously well researched, this book centres around the WW2 destruction of the English industrial city of Coventry including its famous cathedral. Given the subject matter, I found it to be a somewhat depressing little story about the grim effects of war upon civilian populations and in particular the women who are left to cope with an increasingly miserable situation of shortages, nightly bombing raids, loss of loved ones. Perhaps the most telling aspect is that so often their past lives seem to have been obliterated when homes and personal possessions are lost, the present is so horrific and they can see no clear hope of a better future.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

A perfect gem of a read. During a massive bombing of Coventry on November 14, 1940, much of the city and the famous cathedral were all but destroyed. Two women’s lives become entangled as the one searches through the dark and terrifying night for her son, only to find the other woman has spent much of the night trying to protect the young man from the fires and the bombings. The women discover that they had met years ago in Coventry and find solace in each other’s friendship.

Feb 18, 2013

The powerful images of bodies with scorched skin and limbs askew,homes with no walls but china teacups left intact, bring you alongside Harriet as she stumbles to a shelter during a devastating bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe. This novel a must read if you're interested in World War II history. A 2009 Evergreen Nominee that I've now read twice.

Jul 29, 2012

A short, spare novel about the night Coventry was bombed and destroyed. Good.

Dec 07, 2011

Love this author. i felt like i was there in the cold, in the past. Wonderful.

Cdnbookworm Apr 18, 2011

The story is mostly set on November 14, 1940, in Coventry, England. This is the day that German bombers destroyed the city, including its cathedral. The main character, Harriet Marsh is firewatching on the roof of the cathedral when the evening begins. As the bombing begins, she connects with another firewatcher, young Jeremy Fisher. Harriet leads him back through the city to search for his mother Maeve.
We also see the story from Maeve's point of view, where she begins the evening in the pub and spends some time searching for Jeremy.
There is a bit at the beginning taking us back to World War I, when Harriet was newly married, and a bit at the end taking us forward to 1962, after Coventry Cathedral was rebuilt. The rest of the book occurs on November 14, and takes us through the night as the three characters make their way through the burning city and react to the destruction, heartbreak and devastation that they encounter. The interactions between the characters, particular between Jeremy and Harriet are what make the book, as they both bring their feelings and needs into the situation in which they find themselves.

Jan 31, 2011

Humphreys is v. skilled at developing a complex, intense story about defining events in people's lives, evoking sa trong sense of place/atmosphere in a focussed way. I found she got across the sudden impact of war/destruction on a largely unprotected civilian population well away from the normal 'frontline' in Europe, (the story recounts a german bombing raid on Coventry during WWII). Targetted because, although not directly fighting, the city was producing a vast number of the weapons /machinery used on the battlefields. Also, rinteresting in how people respond differently under such intense circumstances.


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Aug 07, 2011

- another short novel, this one captures the bombing of the city of Conventry during the Second World War through the eyes of two women, Maeve and Harriet. Very well written with sparse effective language. Liked the descriptions of the exodus into the countryside as people flee the bombing of the city. 8/10

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