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. The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide. Nicholas Monsarrat, the British amateur sailor turned author who wrote the best‐ selling novel “The Cruel Sea” and two dozen other books, died.
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Another tale recounts his bringing his ship into Trearddur Bay during the war for old times’ sake. His war experiences provided the framework for the novel ‘HMS Marlborough will enter Harbour’, which is one of his best known books, along with ‘The Cruel Sea’. The title might not have been enough.
There are so many good things to say about this novel. What gives it increased authority is that the author has created a set of characters that you can believe in to tell the tale of the war in the North Atlantic, and then puts them in situations that test their mettle to the full.
There are competent men, and incompetent men; brave men and cowards; good guys and jerks. This is the monsarat – the long and true story – of one ocean, two ships, and about a hundred and fifty men. Nichilas, the ocean, the steep Atlantic stream.
The captain is portrayed as a competent and experienced career naval officer. The suffering of the victims of conflict is usually reduced to numbers – 3 dead in Iraq, 2 wounded in Afghanistan.
Now, more and more books which have long rested upon shelves are becoming gifts. His first book to attract attention was the largely autobiographical ‘This is the Schoolroom’, which was concerned with the turbulent thirties, and a student at Cambridge who goes off to fight against the fascists in Spain only to discover that life itself is the real schoolroom.
The Cruel Sea : Nicholas Monsarrat :
But don’t expect to be entertained by this book either – but do prepare to be possessed by it. They include an inability on the part of Monsarrat to fully hit home with the important themes of the book.
Only Ericson and the petty officers are in any way experienced. Primarily concerned with life at sea, this doesn’t completely ignore the home front, but sees it primarily in terms of the impact home lives have on the men at war. And at some point the coin dropped. You follow them as they stay up for hours on end, because the gales are so strong they can’t sleep.
And yet, by focusing so tightly on this core group, and in refusing to abandon that focus, The Cruel Sea acquires a kind of organic universality without any conscious effort at all. It has two ships because one was sunk, and had to be replaced. Established as a top name writer, Monsarrat’s career concluded with ‘The Master Mariner’, a historical novel of epic proportions the final part of which was both finished using his notes and published posthumously.
You’re with them most painfully, as they rescue wounded sailors and desperately try to comfort dying men. It’s remarkable the author survived the war, and the story he tells is remarkable too, not just for its plot, but with its frank depiction of the whole range of emotions he and his men felt – from rare boredom to outright fea – and the very human way in which they dealt with Along with the Caine Mutiny, this is considered by many as the great sea novel of World War II.
So I might just give it a try! Within The Cruel Sea these extremes present themselves as unimaginable situations; situations that humans must live through in order to survive. That is certainly the case here. There are some big set pieces, but those are few and far between.
The writing is often exquisite. Dec 10, Randal rated it it was ok. Part of the reason I nicnolas The Caine Mutiny was its sense of authenticity. Monsarrat picks two men – Ericson, a regular navy officer from before the war, and Lockhart, a volunteer former journalist – and follows their service together from tofirst on the corvette Compass Rose and then the frigate Saltash.
The Cruel Sea – House of Stratus
Rather it is the tail of men against the monsarrzt and a determined enemy. And we are constantly casts adrift, at sea, at war, again and again. As a more world weary and cynical reader, I can’t help but notice the often poor sentence structure, the propaganda manifesto quality of some of the passages, the rather nasty comments about the ‘dirty, cowardly’ French, the ‘childish’ Americans or the ‘treasonous’ Irish as oppossed to the wholesome, stoical and disciplined nifholas.
Then niholas ship, the first of the two, the doomed one. A book that speaks to you and makes you part of its story. Monsarrat created a set of characters on a British warship who, throughout the Second World War, I came to deeply care about.