Covenant with Death

Written by John Harris
Review by Beth Turza

The republication of this 1961 novel is arriving in a timely manner, as WWI historical fiction has become popular with the anniversary upon us. Covenant with Death is a book about three chums who joined the British Army at the start of the war. The author, John Harris, writes with authenticity from the viewpoint of foot soldier Mark Fenner, “Fen” to his buddies. We follow Fen and some of the local boys from their hometown in Sheffield, England, to Egypt and then to the Somme. The reader travels with the army in dark, louse-infested boxcars to the front and experiences new lands and budding relationships born out of loneliness, then finally the horrors of war along with the men in this Company.

I have read many historical fiction stories from this period and WWII, finding that relationships are a central theme. In this story, even though Fen has a girl that he left behind in England, this is secondary to the main storyline, the day-to-day experiences he faces as a soldier. This novel is so well done that it feels like it was written by someone who was actually there, since it creates for the reader a true picture of the times.