Thursday, January 07, 2016

Review: Sleep in Peace Tonight


James MacManus

Sleep in Peace Tonight

By James MacManus 368 pages. 
Thomas Dunne Books, October 2014

About the Book

It’s January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low, Tube stations in London have become bomb shelters, and U-boats have hampered any hope of easy victory. Though the United States maintains its isolationist position, Churchill knows that England is finished without the aid of its powerful ally.

Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s most trusted adviser, is sent to London as his emissary, and there he falls under the spell of Churchill’s commanding rhetoric—and legendary drinking habits. As he experiences life in a country under attack, Hopkins questions the United States’ silence in the war. But back home FDR is paranoid about the isolationist lobby, and even Hopkins is having trouble convincing him to support the war.

As Hopkins grapples with his mission and personal loyalties, he also revels in secret clubs with newsman Edward R. Murrow and has an affair with his younger driver. Except Hopkins doesn’t know that his driver is a British intelligence agent. She craves wartime action and will go to any lengths to prove she should be on the front line. This is London under fire, and it’s only when the night descends and the bombs fall that people’s inner darkness comes to light.

In Sleep in Peace Tonight, a tale of courage, loyalty, and love, and the sacrifices one will make in the name of each, James MacManus brings to life not only Blitz-era London and the tortuous politics of the White House but also the poignant characters and personalities that shaped the course of world 

My Review

Sleep in Peace Tonight was a great read. It is set, for the most part, in England in 1941. Harry Hopkins, FDR’s adviser, is being sent to England to speak with Churchill. He’ll spend many months talking with Churchill and writing to Roosevelt. He’s there because of the war, of course. Popular opinion in the U.S. at the time being that war should be avoided at all costs no matter what—no matter what Hitler was doing in Europe or England, no matter how desperate the situation was growing. Churchill and many others, of course, were advocating for the U.S. to become involved, saying that it was the obviously right thing to do. Hitler is bad news. Hitler must be stopped. 

This book is essentially all about political tension. Tension within the United States, there being isolationists and even Nazi supporters in the U.S. Tension between Britain and the U.S. Tension between two personalities, of course, with a whole lot of he says this but means this. The setting and atmosphere are well-developed. One gets an idea of what it was like to live in a topsy-turvy world with nightly bombings, where the only certain thing is that life is short and death could come anywhere, anytime.

Sleep in Peace Tonight is more than a historical novel, however. It is also a romance. Did I love the romance? Not particularly. On the one hand, it introduces a character, Leonora Finch to the story. She is patriotic and smart and very capable. She’s doing her part for the war. Her storyline reminded me very much of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Her role in this novel is a bit underdeveloped in a way. I wouldn’t have minded if more had been her story. Or if she got a book of her own. 

That being said, I found Hopkins’ story to be compelling for the most part. But do I love Harry Hopkins and Leonora Finch as a couple? Do I think this is a compelling, romantic, moving love story? Not so much. Overall, however, I liked the story very much.

Becky Laney

5 comments:

Caryl Kane said...

Becky, thanks for the great review. I'm adding this one to my wish list.

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