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Publisher's Summary

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 during World War II.

Darting back and forth across the icy North Atlantic, Compass Rose played a deadly cat-and-mouse game with packs of German U-boats lying in wait beneath the ocean waves. Packed with tension and vivid descriptions of agonizing U-boat hunts, this tale of the most bitter and chilling campaign of the war tells of ordinary men who had to master their own fears before they could face a brutal menace - one that would strike without warning from the deep.

©1951 Nicholas Monsarrat (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Hard Edged Historical Fiction

This is a dark and starkly realistic story describing the lives of British naval officers who escorted Atlantic convoys during WWII. The Atlantic war was brutal, harsh, demanding, and thankless in many regards as--especially at the beginning of the war--the escorting corvettes vainly tried to protect allied shipping from the dreaded U-Boats.

Monsarrat captures not only the historical reality of what being in these ships was like, but also the values and personal qualities of the people of the era. To this American listener the prose was very British (the narrator as well, who did a great job), and it gave me a particular insight into the British viewpoint and approach to the war.

Further, the author does a fine job making the reader feel the wildness of the weather and the sea, and the anxiety and frustration of trying to shepherd a convoy at night without modern navigation and other aids, while at any moment a deadly enemy might strike. Eventually of course the tides turn and victory is gained; but even at the end, a feeling of sadness and loss prevails. The hardness of the experience, and how it affected the everyday people caught up in it, was profound.

My only mild criticism is that the plot line is a little thin or even melodramatic in spots, especially as regards the characters when they were on leave.

In the end, this was a tribute to some less-well-recognized warriors of WWII and the absolutely critical role they played in the eventual Allied victory. It brought those characters and their war to life and memory. To me this is a must-read and a classic for those who are interested in this period of history.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A classic

What did you love best about The Cruel Sea?

A geat story, authentic and one which really stays with you after you put the book down.
The book is a memorial to the seamen of WW2 who died in the Atlantic.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The captain of the Compas Rose, a character both believable and a typical Royal Navy captain.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Vance certainly brings the characters to life. The book was published in 1951 and is still a great read.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

WW2 1939 to 1945

Any additional comments?

The book is factual ( I am 93 and lived through those days so I can vouch for that. It stays with you and you begin comparing the present with those days of the Greatest Generation.
Maybe I am getting too old!!!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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I was privileged to discover this book.

Here is a perfect example of the power and art form of the recorded novel. The author absolutely captures the grueling tension and horror of war, and helps us to remember this great war, now with few living survivors. This may be Simon Vance's masterpiece, you completely forget that one man is playing all the parts and so strongly. If you are not ready to read it now, make sure it's on your wish list.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Blake
  • Annapolis, MD, United States
  • 05-24-17

Thoroughly Enjoyable Book With Faultless Narration

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, made so with a brilliant narration by Simon Vance, who juggles the voices and accents of multiple characters so flawlessly that the listener is pulled into believing these characters exist. The story is good, but not without fault as the writer delivers his characters into one situation after another. It reads a little like an episodic televisions series, with the main characters facing the new challenge of the week. Even so, the book is populated by believable characters and situations and entertains while placing you aboard these British convoy escorts.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • Randburg, South Africa
  • 03-27-16

One of the best 2nd world war naval stories

It was good to get back to this book which I can remember sitting on my fathers book shelf and having seen the old movie many years ago. What was very clear from the start is the understanding the author has of life at sea and of the characters. I googled Nicholas Monsarrat to find that he actually served on the vessels he writes about. Although he states at the start it is a true story but all characters are fictionalized it is clearly based on his actual experiences. Having been at sea much rings very true.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Small Class Warship

Served on 165 foot gunboat. Very accurate description of daily shipboard routine. Had to live it to understand.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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very British

the danger, threat, fear, relationships and ultimately the triumph were all underplayed. Yet the drama is gripping and edge of your seat.....If you allow yourself to run with it.

I'm going to wait a month, then listen again.
(My father was on destroyer escorts convoy duty during 2. He couldn't put his experience into words. This book gave me a connection.)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great historic story telling

I certainly learned a lot from this book comma even though it was fiction , much of it when researched was very accurate . Nicholas monsarrat brought everything to life ! it made me more curious about World War II. thank you Blackstone audio for having it recorded

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J.
  • Moorhead, MN, United States
  • 07-05-16

Just like the movie

If you like me saw the movie before picking up this book, you can't help but see Jack Hawkins as the face of Ericson. The book and the movie are so similar you would think Monsarrat had written a screen play. The characters are many and varied and you will care about them. It's a rare talent that can capture the boredom and tedium (that is ninety-nine percent of war) without being similarly boring and tedious. This was a period in the war when all was in doubt and British sailors had little means to fight a battle of attrition. Monsarrat has a knack for dissecting human character exposing the qualities that make persons weak or strong; a follower or a leader; petty or courageous.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Good. Could've been great.

Simon Vance is the main reason I chose this book, and as usual his performance was amazing. How one man can keep that many voices straight in his head - and do them all so well - is beyond me. Narration - top notch.

The story... I nearly put it down a few times and just left it. But I'm glad I didn't. In the end, it's a good story. The characters are really compelling and what kept me coming back to it. A little slow in the beginning, and a good editor could've shortened a few places, but overall a really enjoyable listen.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful