“Elegant . . . illuminates the impact of war on ordinary people . . . an elegy and a celebration.”—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle
Humphreys's lethargic latest depicts the intertwining lives of two British women during the world wars. 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. Humphreys's characters are given to poetic tendencies that occasionally yield interesting insights on the nature of loss and change, though the cast tends toward the indistinct and the narrative feels too in service of the historical record. (Feb.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
During the Battle of Britain, Coventry was the only English city to lose its cathedral in the German bombings. Canadian poet and novelist Humphreys (A Jealous Ghost) here relates how that tragic event affected the lives of her three protagonists. Middle-aged and widowed Harriet Marsh stands in for a friend as a fire warden on the cathedral's roof that fateful night of November 14, 1940, as the planes of the Luftwaffe head for Coventry to destroy its industrial establishment and much of the rest of the city. There she encounters Jeremy Fisher, the young son of a woman she met years ago after the outbreak of the Great War, in which Harriet lost her husband. Jeremy's artist mom, Maeve, spends the evening wandering around the besieged city hoping to find her son. Humphreys's account is presented with a poet's attention to detail and le mot juste, but she spares us none of the horrors of war. A slight but compelling volume recommended for academic and public libraries.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)
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