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Heart of Oak Paperback – January 25, 1997
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Jones's account also offers a rare glimpse of the world of the boy sailor, a rank now abolished but the starting point for many of the previous generations of RN sailors. I personally met a WWII vet who, like Jones, had started as a boy sailor in the Royal Navy, and he vouched for the accuracy of Jones's tale.
An excellent read, and a often gripping look at the life of the ordinary (and often extraordinary) men who sailed the ships that won the war.
Jones' gives the reader a different and personal perspective--that of the lowly, poor, and teenage sailor; looked down upon by everyone else and facing death, boredom, and discomfort constantly.
I agree with another reviewer that it is unlikely that Jones witnessed as much as he claimed, and I cannot attest to the accuracy of his descriptions of life aboard His Majesty's Navy, but there is a truthfullness and sincerity in Jones' narative that I find totally convincing.
I hate fakes. One star.
If, however, you want to read an outstanding novel of the war at sea, "Heart of Oak" won't let you down. Its take on the period is very convincing (obviously!) and Jones clearly makes good use of the stories he must have heard from his real navy shipmates in the immediate postwar period.
I love well-written novels. Five stars.
But I hate fakes. One star.
But that is not to diminish the writing of the tale - Jones imaginings make for a "real" perspective of life in the lower decks of the WWII Royal Navy - and I imagne that in his immediate post-was career in the navy he learned enough to set the scene accurately.
But remember - it is a work of fiction - set on a real historical timeline - but still a good read.
I suppose I should have realized that it was fiction, as I don't think there ever was an E-class destroyer "HMS Eclectic", and no destroyer of that name sailed with HMS Hood and Prince of Wales to intercept the Bismarck (HMS Electra was in that group and picked up the 3 survivors from HMS Hood), as Jones claims. Nor was there a destroyer of that name that sailed with HMS King George V from Scapa Flow, nor did one join the action later from convoys. Some of the details of the action are also inaccurate, but not badly so for a supposed personal narrative (e.g., 6" secondary armament on KGV, when they were 5.25")
Similarly, while there were four O-class destroyers involved in the sinking of the Scharnhorst, there was no "HMS Obstinate" (Jones' ship), nor was one of that name ever commissioned.
Anthony Dalton's biography of Jones seems to paint him as a very interesting, but less-than-pleasant person. It certainly seems to have nailed any notion of Jones' books being other than substantially fiction. The history of the author does seem to add an extra level of interest to the stories. But that said, the stories are good, the feel for characters is strong, and they are very readable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best books about life below decks. I am a great fan of Tristan Jones - have been for years.Published 1 month ago by Whatwouldnelsondo
Interesting and unusual POV of below-decks enlisted RN during WWII. Jones is an enjoyable writer.Published 10 months ago by John Toohey
Good book about WWII in small boats and ships. Tristan has done it again.Published 13 months ago by Ken
Easy reading, good story, interesting perspective from a sailor who was there.Published 21 months ago by Laurie
describes his tough early years in the Royal Navy, being sunk by the Germans, insights into his family in Wales--must read.Published on July 21, 2013 by irondude