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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, March 08, 2015


I've been on a bit of a Helen Humphreys kick lately. This is the third Humphreys novel I've read in as many weeks and the second about WWII. In 1940 the city of Coventry, England is being relentlessly bombed by the Germans. The story follows three characters during the 12 hour conflagration.
Harriet lost her husband in WW1. She met Maeve briefly 25 years ago on the day she said goodbye to her husband when he left for the Belgian battlefields. This interaction was fleeting but the women enjoyed each others' company. On the night of the bombing Harriet is a fire-watcher at the Coventry Cathedral. She meets another fire-watcher, a young man named Jeremy, who has only recently moved to Coventry and is lost. She feels protective of Jeremy, in part because he reminds her of her husband, and she offers to guide him home to find his mother. Along they way they encounter unspeakable horror.
Unbeknownst to Harriet, Maeve is Jeremy's mother. Maeve has been sheltering in a basement beneath a pub but has decided she would be safer if she joined others who were exiting the city on foot. She leaves a letter to Jeremy on the kitchen table telling him of her whereabouts.
We learn more about Harriet and Maeve through flashbacks. I was struck by the author's stripped down, spare and elegant style that created fully fleshed-out characters in such a short volume. Humphreys is a wonderful writer and, having read four of her novels, I aim to eat the rest up just as soon as I can.

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