Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Beside a Burning Sea” as Want to Read:
Beside a Burning Sea
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Beside a Burning Sea

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  1,620 Ratings  ·  355 Reviews
From the author of Beneath a Marble Sky comes an inspiring new novel of a man and a woman from different worlds whose love is put to the ultimate test as they struggle to survive an extraordinary set of circumstances.

View our feature on John Shors' Beside a Burning Sea.

One moment, the World War II hospital ship Benevolence is patrolling the South Pacific on a mission of m
Paperback, 419 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by NAL Trade
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 10, 2011 Debbie rated it did not like it
From Hilary Hatton at Booklist:
It’s the fall of 1942, and the U.S. hospital ship Benevolence is cruising the waters of the South Pacific when it is torpedoed by the Japanese. Only nine people survive, and they eventually wash up on an island: the captain Joshua, and his wife, Isabelle, a nurse; Isabelle’s sister Annie and a woman named Scarlet, both nurses; Ratu, a teenage Fijian stowaway; Jake, a black engineer; Nathan and Roger, two officers; and Akira, a wounded Japanese soldier.

Okay, first
Oct 23, 2008 Marie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in historical fiction, WWII, Japanese-American relations, Japan
Shelves: fiction, asia, japan, war
I really enjoyed this book. John Shors is the perfect writer for me, because his books (so far) are based in Asia and have strong female protagonists (which both appeal to me very much!).

I would give Beside a Burning Sea four-and-a-half stars, but that's not possible on goodreads. I didn't love it quite as much as Beneath a Marble Sky--mostly because in that book I learned so much about Indian history and the building of the Taj Mahal. But I couldn't put this book down and was desperate to disc
I loved, loved, loved this book! When their hospital ship is torpedoed, nine escape including one Japanese POW and take refuge on a lovely island. Unfortunately one of the nine is a traitor who enjoys tormenting and killing. While with the group he tries to act civilized but he is soon suspected especially by the Japanese Akira. A child, Ratu is also with the group. He had stowed away in search of his father. While the traitor communicates with the Japanese bringing them to the island, the survi ...more
Dec 14, 2016 Olivermagnus rated it really liked it
This novel takes place during World War II in the Pacific. When the hospital ship Benevolence is torpedoed by the Japanese near the Solomon Islands, only nine people survive by swimming to a nearby uninhabited island. The captain of the ship, Joshua, is devastated over the loss of so many. Isabelle is married to the captain and she and her sister, Annie, also survive. Annie is recovering from a bout of malaria and is saved and brought to shore by Akira, a Japanese prisoner. Akira is haunted by h ...more
May 06, 2010 Tami rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book!! This is my first foray into John Shors' novels, but it definitely will not be my last!!

On the face of it, this one is a pretty predictable story of a small group of survivors from a bombed WW2 US hospital ship, who find their way to an island and await rescue by the American military, or discovery by the Japanese.

However, it's the richness with which the author draws his characters, and their relationships with one another, that ultimately makes this novel a real shining star!
Kari Gritzan
Jul 20, 2009 Kari Gritzan rated it it was amazing
This is such a beatifully told story. The characters are all so fully realized, I can't believe the book is not longer. You really come to care about the folks stuck on this island.

It's a great read for history buffs, but also for anyone who likes a good adventure tale. Very suspensful, but so poetically done.

I'm sorry I'm not better at writing reviews...I really enjoyed Shors' previous book about the Taj mahal, and this one confirmed that he's an author to keep reading. I can't wait for his n
Sep 20, 2008 Deborah rated it it was amazing
John Shors has done it again! His novel, Beneath a Marble Sky was a wonderful, historical read. Beneath a Burning Sea is much the same. Once I began reading, I don't want to put it down. It follows 9 people marooned on an island in the South Pacific after their ship has been bombed in World War II. The characters are well developed and the story is intriguing!
Oct 19, 2008 Liz rated it did not like it
I loved Beneath a Marble Sky, so I was really looking forward to reading this and was sorely disappointed. Repetition and head-hopping jerked me out of the story at far too many points. It seems as if this is a second or third draft of what would have been an excellent tale, had it been edited properly.
Jan 29, 2011 Louise rated it it was amazing
The novel opens in September of 1942 in the Solomon Islands where the ship Benevolence, a U.S. hospital ship of five-stories high is cruising through the South Pacific at a speed of twelve knots per hour.

The ship held five-hundred beds which were full of soldiers who suffered injuries and psychiatric disorders. There were several dozen navy doctors’ and nurses’ caring for them. The smell was unbearable from the unclean bodies, disinfectants, bleach and burnt flesh. In total, there were five-hund
Jan 21, 2011 Zeek rated it liked it
I loved Shors's debut novel Beneath a Marble Sky and though I can't say I fell for his second endeavor, Beside a Burning Sea, quite as hard, I did enjoy it.

A historical, set during the most strategic time of WW2 in the pacific theater, BABS is a gripping story of a group of mostly strangers stranded on an obscure island in the pacific after the hospital ship Benevolence is attacked and sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

In the heat of battle, two sisters stationed as nurses on the Benevolence are l
Mar 06, 2013 Claire rated it really liked it
Beside a Burning Sea chronicles the fate of nine survivors of the sunken World War II hospital ship Benevolence. The survivors wash up on one of the deserted Soloman Islands and each chapter represents one of the eighteen days on the island.

The novel opens aboard the ship, where nurses and sisters Isabelle and Annie are dressing the wounds of Japanese soldier Akira. They are discussing Isabelles husband Joshua, the ships captain, when the explosion occurs. Unbeknownst to the nurses, Akira can s
Jul 11, 2014 MaryPat rated it really liked it
While I liked this book very much, I am glad I did not read it right after reading Beneath a Marble Sky. This is a very good read. I like stories centered around WWII but this story didn't feel like a war story. I also liked the South Pacific setting bc so many stories about the war are set in Europe. Most people don't even realize or they forget that a war was going on in Asia. Shors has a great talent for being a gifted storyteller. He is able to describe places so beautifully you really can s ...more
May 16, 2011 Nancygoodman rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this historical novel, Beside a Burning Sea. I learned a bit more about WWII history but I really enjoyed the interaction and love development between the survivors of the medical hospital ship, the Benevolence, which was attacked and sunk by the Japanese. There were three relationships well-deveoped by the author, One was between Ratu, a young Philipino stow-away who was in search of his father (who was away at war aiding the Americans) and an black American soldier who took R ...more
Dec 09, 2011 JQ rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
I wish there were negative stars to rate the books, that's how much I disliked this book. Truly awful writing. I do not understand the heaps of praise given to this book on the cover, etc. Do they not use editors anymore? This book could have used one, or two. The dialogue was atrocious to the point of being (unintentionally) hilarious. I also think that an author should know the difference between "affect" and "effect"; apparently this one does not. I only finished this book because I wanted to ...more
This is the second book of John Shors that I've read. If there is one thing that I can say about them, it is that they were written with the intention to show that goodness abounds.

Beside the Burning Sea tells of the struggles of survivors from a fallen hospital ship during World War II. Nothing fanciful, nothing extreme, but endearing, and heartwarming, and emotional, and suspenseful all the same. It's a fictional account of people during a very important historic event, and so the familiarity,
Oct 10, 2014 Reddwhine rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-my-book-club
In the end I found myself wishing the Japanese would storm the beach, kill everybody and put me out of my misery.

The plot could have been so interesting had it been written by somebody that can actually write. It was much too wordy with inane dialogue between all of these cast-aways. The characters weren't particularly likable, and there were too many stereotypes, coincidences and contrivances. I found myself skipping big chunks of it just to get the story to move along. The captain, Joshua dro
Pamela Pickering
Oct 14, 2008 Pamela Pickering rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, war
Incredibly average. For me no surprises or anything to make me really think. The dialogue did not seem realistic and apparently the author has never watched an episode of Survivor since his castaways were faring extremely well. Not bad enough to give it one star though, I made it through 260 pages or so before I just lost interest and skipped ahead to read the last 15 pages or so (something I NEVER do anymore).
Aug 28, 2008 Susie rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I enjoyed the charactors. The villian was villiany in all the right spots and the lovers were lovey in all the right spots (if not a little too sugary sweet). This story of the castaways in WWII was a good easy read. I do have to say that this authors first book, Beneath a Marble Sky, captivated me more though.
Sep 15, 2008 Tonya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008-reads
Outstanding! This book isn't my normal kind of read. However, it sounded intriguing so I thought what the heck. It got my attention in the first 5 pages and didn't let go. 9 people are stranded on an island after a bombing of their ship. Of course there are such different ranges of characters. Such description I felt I was there with them. Pick up this book today, you won't be sorry!
Lisa Topp
Oct 22, 2008 Lisa Topp rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book to get swept up in and read away some dreary winter days. I love Shors' style, and he does a great job with the voices created in this novel. I enjoyed the dual perspective. Another excellent story from Shors - looking forward to his next novel.
Ann Marie
Jan 02, 2014 Ann Marie rated it it was amazing
John Shors showed again that he is an amazing writer. Although I still like Beneath a Marble Sky better this book showed the skill he has. It was a wonderful story about loss, sacrifice, love, acceptance, and betrayal. The characters were easy to fall in love with and sad to lose. Beautiful story.
Oct 13, 2008 Fredsky rated it did not like it
A fantasy soap, 1.5 stars. It was readable, but I got to resenting every word.
Dec 17, 2008 Marta rated it liked it
I thought this book a good, but I didn't love it. I thought it was a little predictable, and the love story was cheezy. It did keep my interest, but wasn't great.
Mar 20, 2017 Jenn rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Heart Eyes.
Anu Warrier
Oct 06, 2016 Anu Warrier rated it liked it

This is Shors’ second novel, his debut novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, I am told, having enjoyed great success. Unlike the exotic setting of his first novel, Shors moves to the second world war for his second outing – and most of the story is set on an island in the Pacific, whose strategic importance makes its capture of key interest to both the Americans and the Japanese.

The story starts on a hospital ship, which is mandated by International law to save wounded men, whether they be friend or foe.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2017 Wendy rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Not the worst of the worst, but close.
Feb 24, 2017 Nina rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is a gripping story set in the South Pacific during WWII.
Sep 17, 2008 Pinkbullets rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of John Shors comfy writing style
Shelves: b-l-group-read
After loving "Beneath A Marble Sky" so much, I had been filled with anticipation when I received my copy of "Beside A Burning Sea".

Once I started reading John Shors' second novel, I had to admit that I stepped right into the story without any problems, the reading flow was (again) incredibly comfortable. And it was this comfortability which kept me reading on - and on. No parts which would interrupt the comforting speed with which the story develops, really good insights in every character's
Feb 01, 2014 LCW rated it it was ok
In this WWII melodrama the eight survivors of the sinking of a hospital ship find themselves stranded on a nearby tropical island in the middle of the pacific ocean. This ships sinking is due to sabotage by an American Lieutenant in league with the Japanese who masquerades as a survivor along side them.

There is a love story that develops between two of the survivors, a Japanese prisoner and nurse. Akira teaches Annie about the art of haiku poetry while she nurses him back to health. There is ver
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Mrs. Eriksson's S...: A few reads... 2 5 Jun 06, 2014 02:11PM  
  • Transgression
  • Beautiful Assassin
  • Gratitude
  • The Marrowbone Marble Company
  • House of Ghosts
  • Red Inferno: 1945
  • A Thousand Suns
  • Devil's Dream
  • Island Madness
  • Etta
  • Gifts of War
  • Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika
  • Do They Know I'm Running?
  • Getting In
  • A Knife Edge (Vin Cooper, #2)
  • Eternal on the Water
  • The Arms Maker of Berlin
  • Gods Go Begging
Hi, everyone. I hope this message finds people well.

I'm the bestselling author of Beneath a Marble Sky, Temple of a Thousand Faces, Cross Currents, Beside a Burning Sea, Dragon House, and The Wishing Trees. My novels have won multiple awards and have been translated into twenty six languages. I have also spoken (via speakerphone) with more than 3,000 book clubs around the world.

For more informatio
More about John Shors...

Share This Book

“A sibling would be the one person in the whole world who would be with you from birth until death. At every step, she or he would be there.” 34 likes
“How can you say goodbye to someone who is a part of you?” 23 likes
More quotes…