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One of the most heartbreaking, saddest books I've ever read. The novel has stuck with me for over 50 years, reading it first at the age of 15 and now as an audiobook. I am fascinated by the nature of leadership, heroism, and our human response to extreme physical and psychological environments. Amundsen, Shackleton, and Bligh come to mind in listening to MacLean's imaginary Captain Vallery of the HMS Ulysses.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I wanted to enjoy this book. I was looking forward to a thriller about the arctic convoys in WWII, which is a subject I'm somewhat knowledgeable about. Almost from the beginning though the story of HMS Ulysses felt not real. A mutiny on a Royal Navy cruiser during the war? Everyone involved would have been severely punished.
I don't want to give any spoilers which makes describing the rest of the book difficult. However, readers will probably realize that HMS Ulysses falls into the "everybody dies" category. As soon as you develop an affinity with a character, the story line changes. Perhaps that is the reason that this book was never filmed.
Even a plot like that might not be a big obstacle, but the events described during the escorting mission are far worse than anything experienced in reality by a convoy, even PQ-17 which was almost entirely destroyed. The characters are never more than caricatures. One doesn't get to know the eventual survivors in any detail.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
HMS Ulysses is, in my humble opinion, the greatest book ever written. I've read more books in my lifetime than I can recall and not one of the has the absolute, heart-rending power of this one.
Maclean produced something beyond that of most writers, of most people, in HMS Ulysses he made a story which grips you tightly from the first paragraph and never for one second lets go.
I still don't know who the main character is in this book; is it Vallery, Nicholls, Turner? Or is it the Ulysses herself? Either way it doesn't really matter, the semantics and structure of the book pale into insignificance compared with the subject itself.
I wasn't on the Atlantic convoys, I've never been to the Arctic, but HMS Ulysses describes both with the utmost clarity and depth. I feel cold when I read/listen to this book, I feel the snow and the ice and I hear the ship's crashing down into troughs between towering waves. Maclean was a master of description and I doubt he will ever be bettered.
I defy anyone not to cry when reading/listening to HMS Ulysses. To become so attached to characters we only meet for a few pages is bizarre, but become attached you do and each character death is more heart-breaking than the last. I sob my eyes out every single time, the book is so damned powerful.
I know others will disagree when I say this is the greatest book ever written and that's good, differing opinions are always interesting, but I personally think that HMS Ulysses is the one book that every single person should read at least once in their lifetime. Really properly read and understand, because it's the most powerful anti-war story I've ever seen. Nothing can touch it, it stands alone, in my opinion, at the very pinnacle of literary genius.
If you want to listen to a book that you will never forget, listen to HMS Ulysses. It is quite simply superb.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to HMS Ulysses the most enjoyable?
Although this is fiction the Arctic convoys to Murmansk really happened in WW2. I first read this book as a teenager and have always loved it. The book empersizes the harsh conditions and the extreme cold and whether conditions in the Arctic, and life on board HMS Ulysses, a cruiser and flagship of the escort force for Convoy FR77 to Murmansk North Russia. At times the story is very moving and you feel for the characters. Of all the books Alistair MacLean wrote this should have been a movie!!!!!
Who was your favorite character and why?
The ships Captain ' Captain Richard Vallery. He was a leader and he was empathetic to his crew
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The storm in the Arctic Ocean was very dramatic
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
If I could I would
Any additional comments?
Reading this as a teenager the book made me aware of the Convoys and the hell those crews went though and so many were lost to U boats and air attack. Again although HMS Ulysses is fiction the convoys and their escorts isn't. I like this as much as The Cruel Sea. The Merchant Seamen in these convoys even today are so unrecognised. Thank you Audable for releasing this Gem as an unabridged audio book as it should be listened to. The Abridged version is a waste of time...
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
One of my favourite stories &have read it many times. Thank you for producing an unabridged version!
Excellent narration, cheers
For those interested in the Navy, and World War 2 in particular, you cannot do better than this marvellous story if the Murmansk run. Boldly written, and beautifully read.