U-9: A Damned Un-English Weapon

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This is a fascinating, fictionalized account of the beginning of World War I and of the rise to prominence of submarines, or U-boats. Before the war begins, the German submarine force is a mystery to the British and the black sheep of the German navy. The small ships aren’t as impressive as are their traditional counterparts, they break down constantly, and they make those who work inside them smell like their fuel source. However, the war gives the U-boats a chance to prove themselves, and they certainly meet expectations in a stunning and terrible battle.

The story follows four main characters. Johannes Spiess is a German naval officer who loathes the fact that he has been assigned to a U-boat. Otto Weddigen is Johannes’s commander, a man who hates war but is nonetheless excited about the U-boats’ potential in combat. On the English side of things, we have Henry Fischer, a Royal Navy navigator with strong German roots, and Roger Barnes, a Navy reservist with a loving family. Through these different perspectives, Thesing weaves a tale that is both historically interesting and emotionally wrenching.

The book is a bit slow to start, with detailed descriptions of the working of U-boats and diplomatic events. Once the war begins, however, things move very quickly. I think the pacing of the book echoes what it was like for the characters: life is calm and peaceful, and then, suddenly, everything is intense and nerve-wracking. It’s a really creative way of involving the readers in the story.

U-9 is an undeniable success. It has politics, emotions, war strategy, romance, and battle scenes fraught with tension. It brings together the best aspects of fact and fiction to tell an incredible story of an important (yet not frequently discussed) moment in the world’s history. Thesing does a wonderful job of describing life aboard these vessels and of highlighting the ups and tragic downs of war. I am so glad I read this book, and you will be, too.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 272 pages
Publisher Merriam Press
Publish Date 10-Jun-2013
ISBN 9781482644852
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue January 2014
Category Historical Fiction


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