Book Review, Rendezvous -- South Atlantic by Douglas Reeman
My skepticism of the term “the good old days” mellowed a bit -- no, a lot -- when I read this First American Edition 1972 British sea-going tale of an old passenger cruiser turned warship in World War II.
The back-cover photo of the author smiling just a bit as he lights his pipe makes me think he knew how his fine writing would bring a chuckle to my skepticism of that term. (Of course, he would then know about my skepticism nearly a half-century after this photo was snapped.)
This is one of the best books, as in very well written, in any category that I’ve ever read. A couple of acclaims on the back cover spell out that greatness: “The gifted British novelist spins a good sea yarn, and his new one is no exception. Reeman knows his World War II naval warfare background and uses it well.” -- Publishers’ Weekly
And, “The tingling excitement and adventure involved in the frigate’s last assignment makes for vivid story-telling, but the psychological dimensions make great story-telling.” -- Best Sellers
I have to give credit to G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 for having chosen this dramatic and suspenseful fiction tale of World War II through Britain seamen’s eyes. I also thank whoever left this apparently unwanted copy at our recycling center for me to find.
I began this novel with a kind of bored, well, it’s so old it’s probably out of date and out of style that I probably will return it to the recycling center next trip I make. But from the start, it gripped me with not only the seafaring suspense but the excellent writing.
But it begins with a hint of romance, a woman military driver dropping off Commander Andrew Lindsay at the pier where he goes aboard his “new” ship, an old pre-war passenger cruiser turned armed merchant ship brought into military service during the great war against the Germans. “Well, here you are, sir. There’ll be a boat across any minute.”
This first character in the tale, of course, becomes Lindsay’s romantic partner in scenes so well written they make many modern writers’ attempts at romance seem primitive. There is nothing “dirty” or even questionable in those scenes, yet you feel the love, the sex drive, and the sexual drama. How can a writer not be specific yet be so descriptive? That was my question.
“Commander Andrew Lindsay leaned forward to peer through the rain-gashed glass, his face outwardly devoid of expression,” in the fourth paragraph gives a great idea of the type of writing and strong-silent-type heroic action which fills the book. (This definitely dates it, since strong silent types seem to be no longer in vogue.)
On several occasions, the going gets very tough with sea-going warfare and tension, so well-written that it made me glad I wasn’t there. The adventure of getting the weeds out of our electric canoe motor on a placid lake and aboard a couple of ocean-going hourly cruises in the past couple of years was enough adventure for me.
What must it feel like to know you’re ship is going down into frigid ocean waves on a cold winter night in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? I don’t even want to imagine. Yet this novel takes you right to that horrible edge of life several times.
In the end, following the harrowing sea warfare, the great romance, and the final sea battle, the ending is positive. A harrowing comedy.
Reeman, according to Wikipedia, has written 26 World War II novels, published from 1958 to 2008 in addition to 42 other war stories.
“Douglas Edward Reeman, born 15 October 1924 (age 88 -- when Wikipedia posted this review) at Thames Ditton, is a British author who has written many historical fiction books on the Royal Navy, mainly set during either World War II or the Napoleonic Wars.
“Reeman joined the Royal Navy in 1940, at the age of 16, and served during World War II and the Korean War. He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant. In addition to being an author, Reeman has also taught the art of navigation for yachting and served as a technical advisor for films. Douglas married Canadian Kimberley Jordan in 1985.
“Reeman's debut novel, A Prayer for the Ship was published in 1958. His pseudonym Alexander Kent was the name of a friend and naval officer who died during the Second World War.”
Generally, I write that I have no idea where you can find copies of old books such as this one. But online when I typed in Reeman’s name, a bunch of sites, including Amazon, jumped out at me.
I highly recommend Rendezvous -- South Atlantic as a really good read.
Just don’t read it on your yacht.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013