One British navy family faces the horror of two wars, forcing father and son apart—and down similar paths.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Courtland is a loyal member of the British Royal Navy, a renowned hero who was thought to be the only survivor of the HMS Valor during World War I’s Battle of Jutland. But this experience has taken a toll on his mind, leaving him unable to adapt to life ashore or even connect with his children Anna and Brent, with father and son growing especially cold toward each other. Despite this distance, Brent shares his father’s passion for the sea and joins the navy himself, eventually coming to command a submarine at the outbreak of World War II. His reputation as a bold leader brings him notoriety and Brent is soon called upon to undertake a secret mission, one which will expose him to the horrors that scarred his father. Cordaro’s debut is well-researched and highly readable, blending historical fiction with military drama while providing a detailed look into British naval service during the early-to-mid 20th century. The novel’s primary focus is Brent’s military career, and there is some repetition in the younger Courtland’s earlier trials, including his constant clashes with higher ranking officers. This could have been more compelling if Brent was occasionally wrong in his protests, but his “wise-beyond-his-years” foresight and sense of justice isn’t developed realistically through mistakes or experiences, making them feel innate instead of a product of his growth. This perfection is thankfully tapered by his pigheadedness when it comes to the elder Courtland, and the discord with his father is an ever-present thread that holds the story together so that even when the two are not interacting their relationship is always in the background. The appearance of Winston Churchill is one of the novel’s high points, and his portrayal is handled with an honor and humor befitting the man’s legend.
Historical fiction that focuses less on history and more on those who survive it.