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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.

What listeners say about The Cruel Sea

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

33 people found this 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!!! Thanksgiving sweepstakes.

28 people found this 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.)

18 people found this 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.

14 people found this helpful

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Heavy poetry

The Cruel Sea is a classic, with a powerful story on a heavy subject. The story conveys the tension, boredom, and terror experienced by the stoic crews both at sea and at home as the years of the war drag on. It is a beautiful work. I have listened to this audio version several times now.

Simon Vance's performance is extraordinary. He turned the book into poetry. A truly great audiobook.

9 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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Excellent and we'll written.

Transported me into the lives of quiet heroes who faced tragedy and possible horrible death every day for five years during the WW II battle for the Atlantic.

5 people found this helpful

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  • J.
  • 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.

5 people found this helpful

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Good historical fiction about a little known WW II service

I am curiously addicted to sea stories, and this one didn’t disappoint. Written in 1951, it is somewhat dated in its stereotyping, but also rather charmingly decorous and restrained. Without hyperbole, it tells the gripping story of the Atlantic convoys that kept Britain alive until the US joined the war. Dogged by German subs, the supply convoys were escorted by a handful of corvettes and frigates whose job was to find the U-boats and blow them out of the water before they could torpedo the convoy ships. Hundreds of ships were sunk and hundreds of thousands of seamen died in the icy Atlantic. It was gruelling, dangerous and unglamorous work, and it may have won the war. Definitely a worthwhile read for anyone interested in WW II or nautical history, or just good historical fiction.

3 people found this helpful