Review: The Perfect Wreck by Steven E. Maffeo

In picking up this book the naval fiction reader must expect a different experience because, as the author says in his introduction, it was originally conceived as a nonfiction work and it’s the true story of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Java.

At the outset therefore, if you have even a modest knowledge of the events of the War of 1812 at sea, you know how the books going to end. However this work is a whole new experience for the fiction reader and serves equally well as a scholarly work for the devotee of nonfiction.

After the scene is set, amusingly from an 1845 anecdote, the book really falls into three distinct sections with the focus of the book moving back and forth between the two ships. At the outset they are in their home ports refitting and taking on stores. There is a lot of detail of these processes which will fully inform those new to the genre as well as revealing some new facts to those who, like myself, pride themselves on knowing quite a bit about it. It also starts to bring out the similarities and differences between the two navies.

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