Monday, 14 January 2019


5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book:  I read this review on EmmabBooks.

In a Nutshell: Fiction, WW2 Naval supply runs between Liverpool and Russia, skirting enemy territory.

This book gripped me all the way through.  George Martin was a young working class man from Liverpool when he joined the navy, and most of the book is about the horrendous Arctic conditions of his voyages to Murmansk, a period spent in this desolate, war-torn part of Russia in what passed for a hospital, the destruction of his ship, and a hellish few days on a lifeboat in unbelievably cold conditions, in which several of his friends perished.

It is also, of course, a story about those friendships and the comradeship that exists in the most testing of times.  The book is obviously so well-researched; what struck me most was what the human mind and body will endure. Sometimes the book is quite poetic - philosophical, even.  George's first impression of the Arctic ocean, when he hears the songs of the whales beneath the sea: 

'We were invaders, after all.  All of us.  Both us and the Germans should not be here.  This place did not belong to any of us.'  

John McKay's writing is so conversational and easy to relate to that I felt as though I was reading a memoir, much of the time.  George was, to me, a real person, not a fictional hero.  Threaded through the tales of life at sea is the story of his home life in Liverpool, in particular a relationship with a girl called Glenda.  This secondary story is interspersed at exactly the right times, and in the end, the two stories converge.

It really is a terrific book.  Highly recommended.


  1. Ooh, really like the sound of this one.

  2. Just bought a copy on the strength of this review.

    1. Verym pleased - a few have bought it on the strength of this review, as I did Emma's. The power of book blogging!

  3. Great review - am getting a hard copy for myself and a friend who is a naval history buff!

  4. WW2 is *totally* not my thing to read about, yet still – based on your review and the fantastic cover I want to add this to my TBR pile anyway. :)