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Life is a Four Letter Word: Breaking Out v. 2 Paperback – 3 Nov 1972

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (3 Nov. 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330233521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330233521
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11.1 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,241,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This, the second volume of the autobiography of the famous writer Monsarrat, starts in 1939 when he would have been about twenty. The book is gripping in what can be taken to be its first part, dealing with his Atlantic sea-duty as a naive sub-lieutenant (later, a less naive lieutenant and finally a rather jaded lieutenant-commander). The second part of the book features his life as British Government (Dominions Office) information officer in South Africa and is less riveting. The third part chronicles the author's life as famous novelist largely based in Canada and is (appropriately?) frankly boring. By 1970, though, Monsarrat was living in what is now North Cyprus. The 3-star vote is a composite: the first part is a 5-star effort. This split parallels his fiction, always best when at sea: The Cruel Sea; The Ship that Died of Shame.

Although at first a pacifist and in (later in charge of) a Central London paramedic centre, Monsarrat joins the R.N.V.R. and serves mainly on corvettes, little anti-submarine warships. This experience of course later came out in fiction as The Cruel Sea. The squalor and horror of it all is well drawn, as is the contrast with the boring squalor of WW2 Britain, not only short of almost everything which makes life worth living but also having to put up with "spivs" (Jewish black market traders) as well as people who set themselves up with or without official sanction as prim guardians of everyone else's adherence to the mass of imposed and incredibly complicated regulations. Monsarrat also notes the idle, unionized labour in the repair docks, getting ten times the pay of a naval rating. He marries, making him more aware of food rationing etc. He (naive again) idolizes Churchill and by 1941 supports the war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Cruel Sea" has been a favourite book for me for decades. Its author Nicholas Monsarrat, born in my home city, officer in the same Navy as I was, and (as I now know after reading the two volumes of his autobiography) with many experiences parallel to my own, wrote a cracking book, in two parts, about himself. There is wry humour and there is cold, wet sea-time in the midst of war; affluence in South Africa, and all-but-penniless existence in dank rooms in pre-war England. These books are well written indeed, with a flair for language that is not often encountered. His views are sometimes strange to the modern eye because they were penned before the era of political correctness. But all through my reading I had in my mind the picture of the duffel-coated, bearded Naval officer on the bridge of his corvette in the North Atlantic, and I found myself wishing I had known him then.
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