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Salt and Steel

This novel from the pen of one of Britain’s leading naval historians tells the story of a family living in Hampstead, north London, in the years before and during the First World War.

The father, Robert Steel, a former naval lieutenant, has used his talent as a raconteur of international class to secure a comfortable life ashore by marriage to the heiress of an industrial fortune, but she, soon seeing through his outward show, has established herself as the real master of the household. By contrast with their disintegrating relationship their children, Henrietta, George, Andrew and William form strong bonds of love and shared memories.

There are hints of changes to come in their secure lives, but the war in August 1914 seems to fall from a clear blue sky. George and William have joined the Royal Navy, and they take part in the major battles of the Falkland Islands and Jutland; Andrew has volunteered for the army and is sent to France; Mrs Steel and Henrietta scan the casualty lists in the papers with dread.

This is a novel on many levels, from the fun, fantasies and anxieties of the Steel children as they grow in the high noon of Edwardian England to stunning periods of action on the family yacht before the war and in the great battles at sea or on the Somme.


‘There are many riches in Salt and Steel. The book is not really to be compared with most of the stuff that passes for naval historical novel-writing; if one said simply that it was ‘better’, that would belittle it.’

The Naval Review

‘This powerful novel will win Peter Padfield new readers, and leave them hoping that he will somehow find time to write more fiction, soon.’

East Anglian Daily Times

‘A superior saga book from the pen of one of Europe’s foremost maritime writers. In a book of many parts, Peter Padfield stays unwaveringly on course: his plot construction is masterly and his feel for period and atmosphere acutely sensitive.’

Gloucester Echo

‘Salt and Steel is a superb family saga set in the years before and during the First World War... Each member of the family faces his or her own tests and doubts, at sea, on the Somme or on the home front.’

Guernsey Evening Press

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