Back in 1983, I traveled to England with my family. One of our stops was Coventry, best known for Lady Godiva to those outside of England. Coventry was heavily bombed by the Germans during World War II because it was the home of many industries affecting the war. The cathedral was completely destroyed. Shortly after the bombing, a rough cross was made out of burnt timbers and the words "Father forgive" were scrawled on the charred walls behind the altar. After the war, many German youth groups came to Coventry to help with the clean-up of the city. Fast forward to the early 1960s when a new cathedral was built on the land next to the destroyed cathedral. The new cathedral is very modern. The back wall is completely made of glass, etched with angels, and looks out on the charred remains of the old cathedral which have been preserved and turned into a park of sorts: benches, pots of flowers and trees open to the brilliant blue skies over England. It is a very touching sight, one which my mother was particularly taken with.
Why this trip down memory lane? Last night, I finished Helen Humphreys' Coventry, a novel about the bombing. The novel tells the story of two women: Harriet, made a widow by World War I, and Maeve, an artist with a son in his early 20s. The two women had met as young women and had spent a happy, carefree day together, enjoying each other's company but never exchanging names. As the years passed, Harriet just lived, worked at a dull job, managed the apartment building where she lived. Maeve had an affair which resulted in her son, Jeremy, and drifted from place to place, job to job. Jeremy and Harriet meet on the night of the bombing because they are both fire watchers on the roof of the Coventry Cathedral. The novel is the story of the bombing, the search for loved ones and the pain and destruction caused on November 14, 1940.
I read the book on the recommendation of my cohort in crime, the Book Besotted Librarian (aka Cleery) because Helen Humphreys is her favorite author. I really enjoyed the book and have requested another by Ms. Humphreys--The lost garden--which is about the land girls who helped keep farming alive during World War II. So, thank you, Cleery for introducing me to a new author. I hope I can return the favor sometime soon.