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The Cruel Sea (Penguin World War II Collection)
The Cruel Sea (Penguin World War II Collection)
by Nicholas Monsarrat
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The benchmark war novel, 22 Dec. 2012
Where QUARTERED SAFE OUT HERE is probably the best autobiographical account of men at war, I would rate THE CRUEL SEA as the finest novel.

The black and white, freezing terror of the North Atlantic and Arctic convoys is brought across in the pages with staggering conviction, and so naturally that I cannot think of a more credible novel either. The characters are as real as any history or biography.

The most striking messages are the sheer starkness of the campaign and the relentness discomfort. If a ship was torpedoed, it was likely the great majority of the crew would drown or freeze, sometimes all. If a U-boat was depth-charged, the whole crew drowned. There was so little middle ground or chance of recovery and rescue.

Great devotions and genuine fortitude, written about brilliantly.

The Religion
The Religion
by Tim Willocks
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The oustanding novel of its genre, 20 Oct. 2008
This review is from: The Religion (Paperback)
This is the only book I have read where I've had to have a shower after each sitting.


The plot is reasonably well formed, but certainly not the strong point of the book, and the characters are credible and vivid but some fall too easily into stereotypes and characters of convenience - which if we're honest is a frequent problem in historical novels. It is the descriptions of the Seige of Malta and the intensity of the combat which set this book apart from any before it, whether fact or fiction.

No other book I have read or have heard of has depicted fighting so clearly, without any dramatic filters. This is combat through a camcorder, not a studio. And do not think that this realism detracts from the book's literary quality and readability - it forms it.

The searing heat, dehydration, terror, chronic exhaustion, wounds, and sickness are brought starkly into perspective. One of the best passages is one where the hero is involved in fighting off yet another attack, and the reader is introduced to his claustrophobic, armour-encased world, where he is reduced to talking himself through his physical movements out loud - block..breathe..step..breathe..thrust.. breathe..etc. - and another scene where two opposing fighters having to negotiate a temporay truce with each other so that they can regain their breath and strength before continuing to hack at each other.

I knew little about the Seige of Malta before reading THE RELIGION, but felt as though I'd learnt the entire history once I'd finished it.

This book is genre-leading, with a depth that the Cornwells, Scarrows, and Igguldens for example do not have (it is twice as long for a start).

A truly oustanding work. Make sure the hot water's on before reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2009 6:41 PM BST

by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rock solid Bernard Cornwell, 20 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Azincourt (Hardcover)
Bernard Cornwell continues his relentless quest to create a novel around every major battle in British history: so reliable you can set your watch by the plotlines, light but engrossing and exciting to read, and genuinely informative - I can really recommend any of Cornwell's books to anyone.

Though it isn't necessarily a criticism of AZINCOURT, I would warn potential readers that it sticks relentlessly to Cornwell's tried and trusted formula: Take a single major battle and form a novel around it, using a gruff hero with the elite role of the time, epic personality clashes, interaction with all key historical figures, romance with a local girl, and usefully though improbably involved in every minor sub-action within the wider battle. That said, I gave up letting that worry me when the author gave Sharpe a key role at Trafalgar - grin and bear it, after all it makes for a much more entertaining book!

I wish these books had been around 20 years ago - history at school would have been so much more enjoyable.

Read AZINCOURT together with the Grail Trilogy (HARLEQUIN, VAGABOND, HERETIC).

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