REVIEW: Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction (based on true events, Pages: 416, Level: Easy

Book Description:

In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery- and make history themselves.

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.

But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a World War II German U-boat, its ruined interior a macabre wasteland of twisted metal, tangled wires, and human bones- all buried under decades of accumulated sediment.

No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location.

Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end. Chatterton and Kohler, at first bitter rivals, would be drawn into a friendship that deepened to an almost mystical sense of brotherhood with each other and with the drowned U-boat sailors–former enemies of their country. As the men’s marriages frayed under the pressure of a shared obsession, their dives grew more daring, and each realized that he was hunting more than the identities of a lost U-boat and its nameless crew.

Author Robert Kurson’s account of this quest is at once thrilling and emotionally complex, and it is written with a vivid sense of what divers actually experience when they meet the dangers of the ocean’s underworld. The story of Shadow Divers often seems too amazing to be true, but it all happened, two hundred thirty feet down, in the deep blue sea.

Some friends and family are attempting a group book read on Facebook. We’ve made it a few months. In an attempt to include our very few male readers, I asked my cousin to nominate three books and we would vote on which one to read this month. Shadow Divers was selected. I was a little worried because books based on a World War II mystery behind a German U-boat just isn’t my type of thing. But the story sounded interesting.

Shadow Divers was phenomenal. I cried. I was terrified at moments. Sometimes I could feel my heart racing and I didn’t want to put the book down. And the book is not just about uncovering the story behind this U-boat. The reader gets to hear the history behind some of the divers and some of the men who died when the mystery U-boat sank. The book is classified as history. In all honesty, it reads like fiction.

The writing and story are so good, if there were proofreading or editing issues, I did not even notice. I became invested in the characters and I like that Kurson ends with a little information on what ultimately happened to some of the main players in this real life mystery.

I am big into zombie books, dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, but every once in a while I need a break; I need something different. This was it. I am glad I read it and I highly recommend it to practically everyone. Give it a shot.

Reviewed by Christina
December 17, 2014

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