The Finest Hours by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman

Published September 25, 2019

The Finest Hours by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman

Book info

  • Title The Finest Hours
  • Author Michael J. Tougias
  • Year 2007
  • Genres Non-Fiction, History, Adventure

In the winter of 1952, New England was battered by the most brutal nor'easter in years. As the weather wreaked havoc on land, the freezing Atlantic became a wind-whipped zone of peril. In the early hours of Monday, February 18, while the storm raged, two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, found themselves in the same horrifying predicament. Built with dirty steel, and not prepared to withstand such ferocious seas, both tankers split in two, leaving the dozens of men on board utterly at the Atlantic's mercy. The Finest Hours is the gripping, true story of the valiant attempt to rescue the souls huddling inside the broken halves of the two ships.


Like many others, I saw the film adaptation of this non-fiction book without knowing anything of the subject matter beforehand. It was a moving story, of course, heroic bravery in the face of almost insurmountable odds and in the end, a victory for mankind against Mother Nature. But when you come to read the book, although still feeling dramatic and, honestly, quite horrific, there’s a steadfast nature about the writing that at first unsteadied me.

Factual to the last, the book plods through the events step by step, dipping back to provide contextual history of other shipwrecks or rescues, but mostly sticking with the incidents in question. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I realised why, as the authors make a point of saying how Bernie Webber and his friends wanted this to be as factual as possible, as undramatic as it could be, steering clear of hyperbole.

So from that point of view, the book works well. It made me think twice about the film, because in all honesty, it feels like other crews had it much worse and Bernie’s story was only a tiny part of what was a bigger story. But that’s Hollywood for you! Even with all that, it’s still a heroic story that will never grow old. What an incredible job these people did.

Rating: 3 / 5

← Previous Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Next → Cash by Johnny Cash and Patrick Carr