Review: Coventry

CoventryHelen Humphreys, Coventry

On the evening of November 14, 1940, Harriet Marsh stands on the roof of the historic Coventry cathedral and marvels at the 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, Jeremy, standing 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. Coventry is a testament to the power of the human spirit, an honest and ultimately uplifting account of heartache transformed into compassion and love. (Summary from

Many World War II novels are sprawling epics that reflect the enormity of the tragedy, death, and suffering caused by the war. By contrast, this is a lovely little book that focuses on one specific event, the bombing of Coventry in 1940, and on three people whom the bombing affects in various ways. Harriet is the most fleshed-out (and therefore most sympathetic) character, but I was interested in all three stories and how they intersect. The novel is very understated in its description of the fear and pain the characters experience, which makes these emotions seem all the more vivid and raw. I was reminded of a quote by a musician I like: “Sometimes a sketch says more than a mural” (Grant-Lee Phillips on his album Ladies’ Love Oracle). This book is a sketch, but an effective one. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of World War II novels or historical fiction in general.

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