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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
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READING HERODOTUS:
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Shors, John: Beside a Burning Sea

  Amazon  

4 stars

After the hospital ship Benevolence is sunk by a torpedo in the South Pacific, nine survivors struggle toward a nearby island. Once they reach land their immediate survival is assured: the island turns out to be an uninhabited paradise with ample food and fresh water, and enough medical supplies from the sunken ship wash ashore to meet their needs. The problem is that the island's strategic location makes it ripe for occupation. The survivors therefore must prepare for the eventuality of a landing by Japanese forces. As they confront the difficulties of living on the island and their fears for the future, their relationships deepen. The captain of the Benevolence and his wife, a nurse, mend a rift that had been developing between them. An unlikely love affair develops between another nurse, Annie, and the Japanese POW that saved her life. Jake, a farmer turned sailor, bonds with Ratu, a Fijan boy who had stowed away on the Benevolence. But there's a viper in the midst of this tropical love fest, someone who's not what he seems and who threatens the safety of all of them.

Like his gorgeous first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky (see my review), Beside a Burning Sea is a good read. I was swept along by the story, worried about the characters and invested in their relationships, particularly that between Annie and Akira, a gentle former schoolteacher wounded by the atrocities he's been forced to witness. But the book is not flawless. The romantic protestations verge on the overly sappy, and the relationship between Jake and Ratu is both too sweet and rather dull. (And Ratu's constant Britishisms--bloody this and bloody that--quickly become annoying.) Finally, the bad guy of the book is too unrelentingly evil to be quite believable: even Hitler must have had his light moments, but this guy doesn't. All that said, Beside a Burning Sea is worth the read. I'm looking forward to reading Shors' third novel, Dragon House, due to be published in September.

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