The Cruel Sea

By Nicholas Monsarrat,

Book cover of The Cruel Sea

Book description

Based on the author's own vivid experiences, The Cruel Sea is the nail-biting story of the crew of HMS Compass Rose, a corvette assigned to protect convoys in World War Two.

Darting back and forth across the icy North Atlantic, Compass Rose played a deadly cat and mouse game with…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Cruel Sea as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I love this book because it’s the best book I’ve ever read about love at a time of war.

Put simply, this is the story of an escort ship during the Battle of the Atlantic in WW2, but there’s nothing simple about it. Montserrat uses the sea and the ever-present danger of the U-boats as a monstrous vice to squeeze blood onto the page.

All the hopes and fears of his characters, their passions and guilts, their love of life, and of their male comrades and the women they leave behind them. It’s all there under the magnifying lens of…

Again I have to admit a personal link to this book, having had two relatives who served in the Royal Navy during WW2, one of whom led a boarding party to capture a German U boat (but that’s another story). I certainly met him often and very occasionally you could see the effect of his wartime experiences in his words or actions. Like most who served, he rarely spoke about his experiences. 

The fact that the author of The Cruel Sea served as a naval reservist in WW2 certainly adds authenticity to this story. You know that this really is…

Nicholas Monserrat was a freelance journalist before WW2. A Royal Navy volunteer reservist, he had extensive convoy-escort experience in the war and he ended in command of a frigate hunting U-Boats. This, Monserrat’s best novel, conveys the full horror of the Battle of the Atlantic. But it’s also a paean to fortitude—the dogged courage that carried ordinary men through cold, fatigue, constant danger, and intermittent terror, not just for months, but for years on end. The sense of realism, based on personal experience, is overwhelming. I read it first as a boy, and several times since, and I’ve always found…

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