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One of the classic naval adventure stories of World War II, Monsarrat's novel tells the tale of two British ships trying to escape destruction by wolf pack U-boats hunting in the North Atlantic. The book was a smash when released in 1951, going through numerous printings. This is the first paperback edition available in ages. Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
'Magnificent ... the classic record of this heroic struggle' Observer 'One of the best novels that has yet been written about sailors at war' Spectator
There is a reason that this book is so well regarding. Well written with well-developed characters, it tells the exciting and thrilling story of convoy escort duty in the Atlantic in World War II. The battle between the Nazi U-boat fleet and the Allied shipping convoys and their escorts was a bloody and critical battle that could have cost the Allies the war if they could not eventually win the day. The book spans the time between the early days of the war as the Allies threw what resources they had into the battle but faced heavy losses of shipping to the later stages of the war where it was obvious that the tide had turned against the U-boats. Surprisingly the book is very much a character driven story with less actual combat than I expected. There is, of course, combat but the book captures the drudgery of constantly sailing back and forth to protect the shipping under the tension of attack but with less actual fighting. That being said, the combat sections are suspenseful, surprising and very well written, as is the entire book. Whether it is a love of books about the sea or a fascination with World War II, this book is definitely worthy of being read.
The cruel sea is nothing less than a classic. Through the prism of war the author portraits universal characters with wisdom, sympathy and love, while at the same time regaling us with English wit at its finest, understated, subtle and full of common sense. This book brought me to tears more times than I wish to confess. As with the previous commentator, I felt a loss when the book was over.
One of the most realistic descriptions of the Battle of the Atlantic. Based on author's actual experiences as an officer serving onboard corvettes, mass produced slow and vulnerable convoy escort ships. Author's actual experiences documented in "Three Corvettes" which vividly depict life on these frail ships. A must read if you want to understand the courage of the civilian and naval sailors who fought the vicious battle to keep England afloat when they were literally the last free country standing. from 1939-1944.
If you want to feel what it's like to be run over and depth bombed by your own ship, read this. Totally realistic view of convoy duty in WWII and it isn't pretty or comfortable or reassuring until the war is over. Lose loved ones in horrible ways while you are doing your duty. Pulls no punches. The movie is very good but the read is truly excellent, interesting, detailed and captivating. Can't say enough about this one.
Nicholas Monsarrat's superbly written "The Cruel Sea" captures in fiction the essence of the Battle of the North Atlantic in a way that a history could not. It describes, at a very human level, the desperate struggle to safely escort convoys across the North Atlantic in the face in incessant Nazi submarine and aircraft attacks. On the success of the these convoys hung the outcome of war; without them, the Allied war effort would have ground to a halt and Britain would have starved.
The narrative of "The Cruel Sea" centers on two men and two ships. George Ericson, a middle-aged commercial sea captain and Royal Navy Reserve officer, is recalled to the fleet in 1939 to lead the newly commissioned corvette HMS Compass Rose. Also central to the narrative is young Lockhart, a very green and newly commissioned Sub-Lieutenant who will grow into a fine naval officer and Ericson's "Number One" on both the Compass Rose and a follow-on command, the frigate HMS Saltash. "The Cruel Sea" is populated by an astonishingly rich cast of supporting characters, including ship's company at sea and wives and girlfriends ashore.
The story itself, richly informed by the author's own experiences at sea in the Second World War, is that of the convoys. The Compass Rose and the Saltash will spend weeks at sea, sheparding merchant vessels under wartime conditions, enduring the harsh weather of the North Atlantic, and fighting the Nazi onslaught. It is a fight that calls for patience, endurance, skill, and cunning, much of it learned the hard way, on the job. The fight will demand the utmost from the men of the Compass Rose and the Saltash, making heroes of some and breaking others. Monsarrat captures it all in superbly readable, often lyrical prose: the mundane routine, the terror of combat, and the heartbreak of loss.
"The Cruel Sea" does not attempt to glorify war. Monsarrat faithfully describes the huge human cost of war, in the strains on tired and frightened men, the struggle to acquire and keep the hard edge necessary to kill in combat, and in the sometimes unsuccessful effort to have a normal life ashore.
This book is very highly recommended to the reader interested in the Battle of the North Atlantic and to the reader looking for a superb novel of the sea.
This is first rate WWII historical fiction. Accurate in the big picture with interesting, surely representative, vignettes of the sailors and their families. But the focus is on the action, what it was like in the violent, stormy Atlantic trying to convoy life-sustaining merchant ships to and from Britain under threat of the stealthy, deadly U-Boat wolf packs.
You get put in the shoes of a captain, a subordinate officer or a common sailer as they go about their duties and face up to the fear of a torpedo and a cold, oily sea waiting to gobble them up without hope of rescue.
The battle of the Atlantic was a very close run thing. Heavy losses from 1941-1943 threatened to starve Britain out of the war. It was only in late 1943, early 1944, when Allied tactics and technology finally adapted, that the tables were turned and the U-Boats were the ones sent to the bottom.
But what makes this book a stand out is the first person descriptions of the fear, drudgery, exhilaration, camaraderie, and tragedy of war at sea during those days. The author could not have written as he did without experiencing it himself and his prose often rises to literary excellence.