Books: Battle of the Atlantic

THE CRUEL SEA (510 pp.]—Nicholas Monsarraf—Knopf ($4).

During the '30s, Nicholas Monsarrat was a budding British novelist. During World War II, he rose through the Royal Navy to command, in succession, three escort vessels, a corvette and two frigates, all on convoy duty in the North Atlantic. In The Cruel Sea, his first full-length novel since the war, Monsarrat writes a moving odyssey of the convoy men.

Monsarrat's story is "of one ocean, two ships, and about a hundred and fifty men." It begins late in 1939, when the corvette Compass Rose, "a fiddling bloody little gash-boat," is commissioned. A few halcyon...

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