The Cruel Sea

A powerful novel of the North Atlantic in World War II, this is the story of the British ships Compass Rose and Saltash and of their desperate cat and mouse game with Nazi U boats A BOMC Main Selection on its publication in 1951, The Cruel Sea remains an exciting tale of endurance and daring.
The Cruel Sea A powerful novel of the North Atlantic in World War II this is the story of the British ships Compass Rose and Saltash and of their desperate cat and mouse game with Nazi U boats A BOMC Main Selectio

  • Title: The Cruel Sea
  • Author: Nicholas Monsarrat
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 275
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 1 thought on “The Cruel Sea”

    1. “[T]hat was the way the war was going; the individual had to retreat or submerge, the simple unfeeling pair of hands must come to the fore. The emphasis was now on the tireless machine of war; men were parts of this machine, and so they must remain, till they fulfilled their function or wore out. If, in the process, they did wear out, it was bad luck on the men – but not bad luck on the war, which had had its money’s worth out of them. The hateful struggle, to be effective, demanded one hu [...]

    2. Bit of a disappointment, one of those books in which I was glad the characters had different names, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart, can't really call it a novel because there isn't a plot as such, the title is misleading, the sea isn't cruel, if at the end of the war the surviving ship's crew were celebrating on the beach and then swamped by a freak wave and dragged under to their watery deaths then - ok, the sea would have been cruel, but throughout the book the sea is j [...]

    3. He loved the sea, though not blindly: it was the cynical, self-contemptuous love of a man for a mistress whom he distrusts profoundly but cannot do without. This applies equally to the characters in the book and to the author. First Lieutenant Lockhart is clearly based on Monsarrat own experiences in the war, serving on small escort ships for the Atlantic convoys. The account he gives has the flavor and the credibility of a documentary, an authenticity that cannot be faked and that puts Monsarra [...]

    4. There are so many good things to say about this novel. The characters and the situations felt so real. Action, angst, humor, growth—it’s got all the stuff of a great novel. It showed so many aspects of the war at sea—the melding of men into an effective crew, the challenging weather, the u-boats, and the strain the long war put on relationships back home. War brought out the best in some of the men, like Lockhart. The stress was too much for others—yet even some of those men who didn’t [...]

    5. I am an admitted fan of the Age of Fighting Sail genre of literature. I have read all of Patrick O'Brian, Richard Woodman, and slowly working my way through C.S. Forester. So a good sea yarn is likely to catch my eye. Because of the intriguing review of a GR friend (thanks Matt) I went looking for and ordered this book, "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat and I think it is one of the best, maybe the best, sea adventure I have ever read. Unlike all of my previous reading adventures at sea this [...]

    6. The best 2nd World War novel I've read. I felt to be living through those years, sharing all the experiences described – whether at sea on a corvette and then a frigate or on land. Masterly character studies throughout.I kept thinking of Moby Dick whilst reading this. Both set at sea of course and the various crews are closely observed in each. The capains couldn't be more different - Ahab in Moby Dick and Ericson here. Perhaps it is the fight against the elements and the U Boat (Moby Dick)? T [...]

    7. This is an exceptional book of World War 2 and of the sea. With deep authenticity derived from the author's own experiences, and conveyed through unpretentious but powerful prose, the story and characters are brilliantly drawn. Through the initial fitting out of one of the first corvettes, through travails on the high seas, tragedy and small triumph, this is a book that is difficult to put aside.

    8. Monsarrat created a set of characters on a British warship who, throughout the Second World War, I came to deeply care about. THOSE MEN BECAME SO REAL TO ME. I HURT WHEN THEY HURT. CELEBRATED WHEN THEY SURVIVED YET ANOTHER PATROL, be it on the North Atlantic or in the waters on or above the Arctic Circle (escorting merchant ships carrying goods to the USSR).

    9. I haven't read much fiction about WWII but I was motivated to read this because waaaaaay back in my late teens I read The Master Mariner, by the same author, a kind of Wandering Jew story covering the history of shipping from I can't remember how far back up to the age of oil super-tankers. It was good but frustrating in that Monsarrat died before completing it and most of the 20th Century exists only as a brief outline. This book being much more famous, I picked it up when I saw it reprinted an [...]

    10. The Cruel Sea is the story of the crew of a newly commissioned corvette, Compass Rose, a ship that forms part of the escort to merchant convoys during World War II. The crew are mostly inexperienced men from non-naval backgrounds and the story focuses on their differing reactions to the horrifying experiences they have as 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.But this isn't jus [...]

    11. I got turned onto this book as a result of watching the great film starring Jack Hawkins (whose grizzled face as he contemplates his sunk ship is hair raising, as is his angry lament: "The war! The war! The bloody war!"). I enjoyed it immensely. Monsarrat clearly knows what he's talking about, and the story of the bravery of those men who protected the Atlantic Convoy from the German u-Boat "Wolf Packs" is one full of long periods of boredom interspersed with terrible, sudden tragedy. It's diffi [...]

    12. This is Nicholas Monsarrat's best work, in my opinion, and it falls into the "Must Read" category for WWII fans. Actually, it's the only Monsarrat book that really works for me as entertainment. I've read THE CRUEL SEA three times; every time the story just barely holds me to continue reading, and every time I find myself haunted for weeks afterward by some of the scenes. Is it a "Masterpiece?" Maybe.Monsarrat writes with a staid, formal "British" prose, somewhat at odds with the occasional typo [...]

    13. A stirring novel of warfare. This tells the story of the gallant corvette the Compass Rose and later the Saltash, and those who sailed upon them. Each vessel has the unenviable job of escorting conveys safely through the treacherous waters of the North Atlantic. It was a time when the battle for supremacy could have gone either way. This is a rousing tale, but it is also poignant and it's certainly well written. I really enjoy these themes of battling against the elements with near impossible od [...]

    14. This is an excellent novel about the brutal Battle of the Atlantic told principally from the perspective of two officers tasked to escort convoys in the North Atlantic. The novel chronicles their harrowing life at sea and also details the difficulties of leadership.Most of the maritime books I've read about this era have been by submariners (I occasionally, accidentally found myself thinking from their perspective), so this was a treat for me. Also, many of the books I've read about naval warfar [...]

    15. A novel that exposes the mercilessness of the North Atlantic U-Boat war. Monsarrat gives life to the relentless character of both enemies -- man and nature. Arguably the best novel of war at sea.

    16. A superb book, as good at depicting ordinary lives as it is at portraying the 'big' heroic moments. Based around a corvette, the Compass Rose, built to escort Atlantic convoys and protect against German u-boat attacks, we meet the men who sail on her from the quiet, steady Captain Ericson, to the newly commissioned officers fresh from their pre-war jobs in banks and newspapers.There's nothing flashy or 'modern' about this book, it's told in a steady, sober voice, starts at the beginning of the w [...]

    17. I enjoy war stories because they hold the potential for human extremes, and examining extreme situations provides a better perspective on everyday life. Within The Cruel Sea these extremes present themselves as unimaginable situations; situations that humans must live through in order to survive. Situations where every action, every decision, is absolutely right regardless of the judgments that may be imposed after the fact, in a relative calm, or in a comparative sanctuary of safety.This book f [...]

    18. I feel like this was one of the most important books I've ever read." the time for sensibility was past, gentleness was outdated, and feeling need not come again till the unfeeling job was over." p. 106."Saltash's crew was almost double the size of Compass Rose's, and sometimes it seemed that they were twice the distance away as well, and twice as anonymous. There was no one like Gregg, the seaman with the unfaithful wife, there was no one like Wainwright to cherish the depth charges, there was [...]

    19. For those who like books glorifying war, this is not for you. Rather it is the tail of men against the sea and a determined enemy. It is about boredom, terror, and doing the job. It is a sailor’s view of war, but you need not be a sailor to enjoy it. Set in the Atlantic throughout World War II, it traces a Captain and his Number One from 1939 through 1945. The real star of the novel is however in the title, the Cruel Sea.

    20. I've kept a list of books finished since the middle of college and can be sure to include all of them in GoodResds. For books earlier than that matters are less certain. Some books are, of course, outstanding, but the bulk of them, the childrens' books and the fictions read in a day, are lost to memory. Dad's moved many times, sacrificing a bit of the family library with each move. I myself have more than once divested myself of books, having traded in almost all softcovers to paperback exchange [...]

    21. What's the worst that could happen to you after your ship was sunk by a submarine ? Your buddies are closing in on your cluster of shivering men in vests, ready to whisk you to the safety of hot soup. Then the sonar picks up the U-Boat's position. It is right underneath you. After a moment's hesitation, the standing orders are clear: engage and destroy the enemy at all costs. A convoy that lingers to rescue survivors is like a herd huddled around a lame beast. The wolves are circling. The depth [...]

    22. Along with the Caine Mutiny, this is considered by many as the great sea novel of World War II. It's truly outstanding, written by a former Royal Navy officer who drew on his own harrowing adventures for the basic narrative. It's remarkable the author survived the war, and the story he tells is remarkable too, not just for its plot, but with its frank depiction of the whole range of emotions he and his men felt - from rare boredom to outright fea - and the very human way in which they dealt with [...]

    23. This is a memoir written as fiction. It is gripping and a page turner. This is an all time favorite of mine. I love the movie as well.

    24. From BBC Radio 4 Extra:The Cruel Sea is the story of the crew of a newly commissioned corvette, Compass Rose, a ship that forms part of the escort to merchant convoys during World War II.

    25. Just brilliant.This had been on my "to read" list for years. The notion of "war at sea" is not one that comes easily to me. I once had an argument with someone whilst rowing on Roath Park Lake. I got scared, because I was in a position of conflict with about 2 feet of water below me. It reminded me of the time, one balmy June day, when the clinker I was rowing in on the very warm Isis river sprung a leak. Two of the scariest moments of my life.So reading a book about large ships in sub-zero temp [...]

    26. “[WWII] would live in history, because of its length and its unremitting ferocity: it would live in men’s minds for what it did to themselves and to their friends, and to the ships they often loved. Above all, it would live in naval tradition, and become legend, because of its crucial service to an island at war, its price in sailors’ lives and its golden prize – the uncut lifeline to the sustaining outer world.”The Cruel Sea - published in 1951 - is every bit as legendary of a novel a [...]

    27. Originally published on my blog here in February 1999.The Cruel Sea is one of the classic novels of the Second World War. It is the story of the Battle of the Atlantic, the struggle between the German U-boats and the British convoys keeping Britain supplied - and in the war. Not only did the two sides have each other to fight, but the Atlantic itself was always ready to claim another victim.Monsarrat picks two men - Ericson, a regular navy officer from before the war, and Lockhart, a volunteer f [...]

    28. My parents, may they rest in peace, lived through the Second World War. My dad was forced to work in Germany and my mother stayed behind in the Netherlands with two babies, (my sister and oldest brother). They never talked much about it. What they said, made me curious to learn more and I read a lot about the war, as a child and as an adult and also watched a lot of documentary series. You have to have at least some kind of interest in the subject matter when reading a book like The Cruel Sea an [...]

    29. This has to be one of the most well known novels about the Second World War and I finished it thinking it deserved to be so. There’s an authenticity to it that is evident throughout the pages and I found myself reading many of the set pieces thinking that it was written from genuine experience. It’s a work of fiction, but you know some of these things actually happened. What gives it increased authority is that the author has created a set of characters that you can believe in to tell the ta [...]

    30. Not awful.You know those bad, stereotypical WWII films that used to litter the late, late show? This book is one of those, in print. Noble young men striving -- nay, Striving Mightily against Cruel Fate. Or in this case, the Cruel Sea. And, you know, Jerry.That's this book: Cartoonish characters and dialogue; OK action sequences; a lot of heroic Posing & Musing; possibly the worst romance ever set in print. Appallingly snobbish.All of which conspires to make it sound slightly worse than it i [...]

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