Literature and War Readalong April 30 2012: Coventry by Helen Humphreys

With last month’s book we have left WWI behind us and move on to WWII. The first of the WWII books is Helen Humphreys’ novel Coventry. I thought this would be my first novel by this author but I have read another one before, The Lost Garden, a wonderfully lyrical coming-of-age story which I liked a lot. With this in mind I’m keen on reading Coventry. Helen Humphreys is British but she lives in Ontario, Canada. Helen Humphreys has won several prizes, she is the author of 4 novels, one book of narrative non-fiction and four collections of poetry. I have a weakness for poets who write novels or novelists who write poetry because the writing is usually far above the average.

On the back cover of the novel it says that Coventry is “a memorial to the terrible losses of wartime, and a celebration of remembrance, determination and resilience.” The book tells the story of two women and moves back and forth between 1919 and the night of the 14 November 1940.

Here are the first sentences

The swallow arcs and dives above the cathedral. Harriet March watches it flicker through the darkness ahead of her as she walks along the cobblestones towards the church. The bird moves in the night air with all the swiftness of sudden feeling, and Harriet stops at the base of the ladder, tracking the flight of the lone swallow as it shivers up the length of the church spire.


The discussion starts on Monday, 30 April 2012.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2012, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

16 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong April 30 2012: Coventry by Helen Humphreys

      • That is blasphemous! I love the cathedral, especially the contrast between the ruin and the new building. And the mounted statue of St. Michael and the devil, the Sutherland tapestry…

        Oh, and I once nearly smashed one of the little stained-glass windows in the new cathedral (me and a big heavy flag – long story!).

        • Oh, boy… I only saw a few phtos on the net and they showed some very clean looking floor… They were not good photos, I reckon.
          Now that’s a story that will need to be told, one day.

  1. I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve read a couple of her books and enjoyed them very much. I’ve had this one on my TBR pile since it first came out so it’ll be good to have a reason (as if I need one!) to pull it out and finally read it!

    • It’s thanks to you, I think, that I discovered it. I don’t know why I didn’t even realize I had already read one of her books before. Like you, I liked it a lot.

  2. Although a lot of WWII books and movies mention Coventry and the devastation from the November bombing raid, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Coventry. I’m reading Cryptonomicon now and there is mention of the possibility that Churchill knew in advance what would happen in Coventry and allowed the sacrifice to prevent the Germans from knowing that the Enigma cipher had been broken. Ultra knew that the raid would happen, but whether or not they knew which city is the question.

    I’m eager to hear what you think of the novel.

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