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The Cruel Sea (Classics of War) [Paperback]

Nicholas Monsarrat
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 2000 Classics of War
A maritime adventure originally published in 1951. Set in the Second World War, two ships and their crews of about a hundred and fifty men are involved in defending Atlantic convoys against impossible odds. In the CLASSICS OF NAVAL LITERATURE series.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Burford Books (Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580800467
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580800464
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.9 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,817,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Magnificent ... the classic record of this heroic struggle' Observer 'One of the best novels that has yet been written about sailors at war' Spectator --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

After the war, Monsarrat's career as diplomat and novelist took every twist and turn in the book. He died of cancer in 1979 and was buried at sea from a destroyer, off Portsmouth. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb! 8 July 2008
By Mike
Simply superb, you will not read a better book about leadership, sacrifice and courage than this book. A wonderfully written book that brings home the realities of the longest battle in the second world war, the Battle for the Atlantic.

As a measure of how well regarded this book is by the Royal Navy, for those young RN officers undergoing training at Britannia Royal Naval College this book is given as a prize presented to the Cadet with the best performance in leadership.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Seldom have I read a book that is able to emulate the emotion and reality of the war at sea. There is something different and special with the way that Monserat has portrayed the life of "Compass Rose" a convoy escort, and the people involved. The ship is eventually sunk and some of the survivors go to a new ship and the story follows a number of the crew.

I have read a number of books on the stories of the convoys in the second world war but it is this fictional book that really makes me understand the misery and relief of surviving the convoys. It is difficult to explain this in a review and I would recommend anyone to read the book alongside any of the factual books and you will see what I mean.

Incidently, the BBC audio dramatisation (Donald Sinden, Phillip Madoc, Helen Baxendale and others)is also excellent.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction that reads like a true story 24 Sep 2002
The Cruel Sea is the story of the crew of a newly commissioned corvette, acting as an escort to merchant convoys during World War II. The crew is initially mostly inexperienced, from non-naval backgrounds. The plot focuses on their differing reactions to some of the horrifying experiences they have as the German U-boats attack their convoys with increasing success. Some will survive the war, and some won't - but all of them will be changed by their experiences.
Monsarrat served in corvettes himself during the war, and perhaps this is what gives the book an air of harsh reality. Although it is a fictionalised account, I found myself checking this part way through, because the story felt so real. Well worth reading - and if you enjoy this type of book, you may also enjoy H.M.S Ulysses, by Alistair MacLean.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This superb book tells the story of how Britain fared in the battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II. It pitted the Allies against the superior U-Boats (which attacked in sinister-sounding "wolf-packs") and war ships of Germany and it lasted until May 1943, when the German forces were overcome by new uses of the technology available to British vessels (improved radar and sonar known as "asdics"). During this battle the Allies lost 36,200 sailors and 36,000 merchant seamen, and the Germans lost 30,000 sailers. In addition, the Germans lost only 783 submarines, while the Allies lost 3,500 merchant vessels and 175 warships. At the end of the war, Rear Admiral Leonard Murray, Commander-in-Chief Canadian North Atlantic, remarked, "...the Battle of the Atlantic was not won by any Navy or Air Force, it was won by the courage, fortitude and determination of the British and Allied Merchant Navy."

The statistics tell their own story but the individuals involved, in sometimes horrendous events, bring the numbers to life. The Compass Rose, a vessel known as a corvette - a small ship that was used to search out and attack U-Boats and also to pick up survivors from ships that had been sunk, is captained by Ericson and though there are personal problems between the initial No.1, Bennett, and his fellow officers, this is sorted out when he opts to remove himself, supposedly suffering from a duodenal ulcer. Captain Ericson and his new No.1, Lockhart, make a good team. The writing is brilliantly perceptive as long as the men are at sea and there is plenty of heart-in-mouth action here. The portrayal of men who have been torpedoed and are waiting to be picked up by rescue ships, was devastatingly realistic and horrendous.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling 30 Nov 2004
The Cruel Sea had been in my book shelf for years, as part of some book sale deal when I first opened it. Not knowing what to expect, I started reading with an open mind and found myself completely enclosed by the atmosphere of WW2.

The book, a literary masterpiece, slowly and humbly tells us stories of war, fighting and death as well as love, longing and comradeship. The characters so real and true, it is hard to believe this is not based on real events. Or should I say, of course it is! Montsarrat is well acquainted with naval affairs, having worked as an officer himself and having lived through the war. Of course characters resemble persons he has met and actions are of course depicted in the most realistic ways, I wouldn't know, being totally ignorant to naval ways.

What i do know, however, is that I still think this may be the best book I have ever read! Montsarrat was indeed a compelling author and i have tried to find more novels by him.

I recommend you to read this book, for no other reason than that it is wonderful literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 23 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first studied this classic at high school in England. The author's knowledge and love of the sea and naval battles shine through. His characterisations and the motivations he gives his cast are well-thought out. He is able to bring the reader onto the corvettes during battles, skirmishes, slack times. Monsarrat superbly describes the brutality of war, the beauty of the landscapes and seascapes, romance, pride in what the sailors are trying to achieve. A masterpiece and thoroughly deserving of its reputation. Buy it!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic
Published 17 days ago by Roblx
5.0 out of 5 stars It makes you realise what privations the sailors on the ...
It makes you realise what privations the sailors on the convoys to Russia had to endure. How ironic that the country we were saving, Russia, now calls us that little insignificant... Read more
Published 1 month ago by brian
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly gripping.
A truly gripping story set against the background of the second world war battle for the Atlantic. It is written with immense detailed knowledge of the Royal Navy of that period.
Published 2 months ago by Mrs P A Woffinden
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Fictional Account of The battle Of The Atlantic ever Written
A magnificent and moving novel written by an author who knew his subject. So much has been written about this famous book that there isn't anything original I can add so I must... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr. R. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant book which I reread after about 30 years. Just the right holiday reading for me!
Published 2 months ago by Richard of York
5.0 out of 5 stars Unendingly Cold,Wet,and Exhausted!
Since it was first published,over half a century ago,this has remained one of the very best novels ever written about the Second World War at sea. Read more
Published 3 months ago by michael john madine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excelent read Ive just reread and listened to a tape
Published 3 months ago by doc
5.0 out of 5 stars Is this one of the best war novels ever written? Yes!
This remains one of the great war novels, creating with excruciating detail the heroic battles of a Corvette crew in the defense of the countless conveys that crossed from America... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Claudia Saatchi
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Not quite as compelling for me as Alistair Maclean's 'HMS Ulysses' but a well informed and well written account of naval life in WW2
Published 4 months ago by Simon Says
5.0 out of 5 stars We love it
I bought this to read to my Dad as it is one of his favorite books.
We love it! I can enlarge the print when he is well enough to read. Read more
Published 4 months ago by tinylinedancer
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