April 15th, 2009
An Honorable German: A Novel of World War II
McCain, Charles (Author)
Novels of naval warfare have long captured readers’ attention and imagination, perhaps because many of them, in addition to simply being great yarns, illuminate the moral dilemmas of command, offer glimpses of social and political history, and describe life at sea. An Honorable German does all those things. A gripping and eye-opening first novel.
Aboard first the pocket battleship Graf Spee and later a U-boat, there is plenty of action, skillfully described. Lieutenant Max Brekendorf, the book’s protagonist, is angered that the Graf Spee’s captain scuttles his ship instead of sacrificing his 1,000-man crew in a hopeless battle against the Royal Navy, but he emulates the Spee’s captain when he commands a U-boat. Life aboard these two ships is starkly contrasted, from the relative comfort of the Spee to the cold, claustrophobia, deprivation, and sheer terror of the U-boat. But the most compelling parts of the book occur ashore, in wartime Germany. As war wears on, the apolitical Max is appalled by Nazi zealotry and terror, and the staggering destruction wrought on Germany by Allied bombing.
— Thomas Gaughan
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