Title: Sleep In Peace Tonight by James MacManus
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 369 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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 history.
In Sleep In Peace Tonight, James MacManus skillfully weaves fact with fiction and the resulting story is a fascinating novel set during World War II. Beginning in January 1941, the story is rich in historical details as US envoy Harry Hopkins travels to Britain to assess the war torn country’s ability to continue fighting the Germans in the early years of World War II. It is an intriguing and insightful view into a little known period of history that provides readers with a better understanding of why the US was so reluctant to enter the war.
Harry Hopkins is not an elected official but he is President Franklin Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor. With mounting pressure from Churchill for the US to offer more assistance than the much beleaguered Lend-Lease program, Harry is sent to Britain in an effort to smooth over the strained relations between the two countries. Hopkins’ time in Britain is full of meetings with Churchill and his staff but he also witnesses first-hand the devastating effects of the relentless Blitz attacks and heartbreaking destruction in the wake of the bombings.
Interspersed with these factual events is Harry’s relationship with Leonora Finch, the driver assigned to him during his stay in Britain. While both the character of Leonora and their subsequent romance are fictional, this part of the storyline serves to highlight the changing roles of women in war and the evolution of British intelligence, the Resistance and their effort to cripple the Nazis in the surrounding countries.
While Sleep in Peace Tonight is always interesting, the novel is a little slow paced and repetitive in the beginning. The story is told from several different perspectives and some of these shifts are a bit confusing at times. The characterization of the key players is superb and each of them are vibrantly depicted. What makes the story truly amazing is watching Harry Hopkins skillfully and diplomatically work with both Churchill and Roosevelt and maintain peace between the US and Britain. Equally captivating is the gradual shift in Hopkins’ personal opinion on US involvement in the war.
Sleep in Peace Tonight is a riveting World War II novel that is very unique and infinitely intriguing. James MacManus brings both the story and its characters vividly to life. Anyone who is interested in history would benefit from reading this incredibly well-researched and captivating novel.
JAMES MACMANUS is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Ocean Devil, which was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. His other novels include The Language of the Sea and Black Venus. www.jamesmacmanus.com