Read Master And Commander by Patrick O'Brian Online


1800s. Britain's Nelson leads Navy against Napoleon's France. Captain Jack Aubrey, newly promoted to old, slow HMS Sophie, is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. Aided by friend and skilled ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, Aubrey and crew win clashes, finally hopelessly outmatched by a mighty Spanish frigate....

Title : Master And Commander
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007767489
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 185 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Master And Commander Reviews

  • Stephen
    2019-03-23 11:00

    This story posed a bugger of a ratings quandary for yours truly. While reading it I was bouncing around between everything from a bountiful 5 star rating for pure quality of writing, hefty historical detail and superbly drawn characters, all the way south to a skimpy 2 star for less than engaging plotting, iceberg-like pacing and noticeable lack of emotional resonance. Finally, in my best impression of Solomon, I settled on a solid, if not quite ebullient, 3 stars based on the fact that I was deeply impressed with many aspects of the book. I just didn't “enjoy” it enough to go above that. That said, before I get into specifics of the book, I do recommend this book to fans of classic literature, naval adventures and historical fiction because the literary quality is certainly there. O'Brian knows his stuff. I'm going to forego a thorough plot synopisis since some many other reviews have checked that box so admirably. Therefore, I thought I would just give my impression of a few aspects of the book that really impressed me and those that left me less than enthused. I'M IMPRESSED:On the impressive side, the novel's historical detail is outstanding. Everything from music, to food, to medicine, to science, to clothing, to social interactions within the various class systems, to military life on board a naval vessel during the Napoleonic Wars are described in extraordinary and wonderful detail. O'Brian makes you feel as if you are truly looking through a time machine into an earlier period. In addition, while this is only my subjective opinion, I got the feeling that the social attitudes and inner disposition of the main characters rang very true for the period.High, high marks for authenticity. Also very kudo-worthy is the quality of O’Brian’s prose. The story, though written in the latter half of the 20th century, has the elegant, polished feel of “classic” literature that brings to mind Dickens and Austen. Lush yet controlled and very easy on the eye. I found the writing to be perfectly in sync with the subject matter being described. Finally, I was also very impressed with the two main characters of Jack Aubrey and Steve Maturin. They were fully-fleshed in three dimensions and drawn with a tremendous amount of nuance so that you saw you could really get to known them. They certainly have the potential to become characters that will stay with you for a long time.LESS THAN THRILLED:Unfortunately, there was one important aspect of the book that I didn't love and it really hampered my reading experience. Basically, I never found myself truly pulled into the narrative or engaged with the plot. At least not as much as I would have liked. It is possible that the tone of the prose, which is deliberately understated, was part of the issue for me. Without that connection, everything just seemed too dry which dampened my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Still, I liked the book and intend to read the next volume in the series because I know if I get pulled into the narrative by the characters, the rest of the story would be much more enjoyable and could become a very special series.3.0 stars. Recommended.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-04-07 09:50

    $1.99 Kindle sale, May 2, 2017. The classic high seas adventure! In the year 1800, Jack Aubrey sits next Stephen Maturin at a musical performance in Port Mahon, Minorca, a base of the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and Italy. They immediately rub each other the wrong way. Both are snappish because of other issues in their lives, and they part planning on next meeting for a duel. But when Jack is given his first command of a ship, all is forgiven, and he needs a ship's surgeon: who better than Stephen? Stephen, down on his luck, is happy to accept. And so begins the first Aubrey/Maturin voyage, with Stephen conveniently playing the role of landlubber who needs to be informed of everything naval, so the reader can be informed along with him. I have to say this book was pretty rough sailing in parts. The massive amount of naval and nautical jargon about sank me, and I got a bit lost in some of the battle descriptions. My book club pretty much unanimously felt the same way; we all floundered a little. (The funniest part of the book club meeting was when one of the ladies was excitedly telling the rest of us about her favorite scenes in the book, and we didn't remember any of them. I finally asked her to show us the cover of her book: it was The Far Side of the World, the 10th book in this series!)This 1969 book is the first in a series of 21 books and, though it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, the novel felt a little unfinished to me, more like a set-up for an ongoing story than a self-contained book. It's also very episodic, kind of like you're on a real-life journey with the characters. But I can't in good conscience rate Master and Commander less than 4 stars: the amount of research that went into this book was incredible, even if O'Brian could have done a better job of making it accessible to the reader. ("Patrick," said one of his friends, "can be a bit of a snob.") The characters were well-rounded, with some very human flaws. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are very different from each other, but they complement each other well. Jack is brash and bluff, a womanizer in port, and just a little shallow at this point in his life, although he can be a genius at sea. Stephen is intelligent, curious and a gifted natural scientist, with a hidden past. It will be interesting to see how their personalities develop in following books.The plot was complex, with the author doing that sometimes frustrating thing (Dorothy Dunnett does the same) where something happens or someone says something and you can tell it's significant, but you can't figure out why because the author isn't spoonfeeding you everything.There's a lot of humor in the story, some of it so dry that it's "blink and you miss it." At one point Jack and Stephen are at a fancy dinner party held by Captain and Mrs. Harte. Mrs. Harte is sleeping around on her husband. Stephen loses his napkin and dives below the table to get it:He beheld four and twenty legs ... Colonel Pitt's gleaming military boot lay pressed upon Mrs Harte's right foot, and upon her left -- quite a distance from the right -- reposed Jack's scarcely less massive buckled shoe.Course followed course... But in time Mrs Harte rose and walked, limping slightly, into the drawing room.In a 1991 New York Times book review, Richard Snow called this series the best historical novels ever written. "On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives."Highly recommended for readers who want a mentally challenging historical novel.Bonus content: There's a fantastic interactive map of the journeys of the ship Sophie in Master and Commander at Spoilers ahoy!This one was a twofer:• IRL book club read, February 2016.• 2016 Classic Bingo challenge, Catching up on Classics group.

  • Henry Avila
    2019-04-07 09:54

    Jack Aubrey, the frustrated naval officer, at last, after a long wait, on shore, receives his own ship to command, the brig Sophie, but by the strange ways of the British Royal Navy , called a sloop. The year 1800, Napoleon is unstoppable on land, but the British rule the Seas. In Port Mahon, on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, captured from the Spanish, allies of the French. Aubrey tries to gets his ship ready, war rages, it has for many years. He, a music lover, meets Stephen Maturin, on dry land, during a private concert, in the Governor's House, a doctor they desperately need on the Sophie, enemies at first, but later become good friends. An educated man and scientist, too, is the physician. Inspecting his crew, the First Lieutenant( second in command), is another Irishman, James Dillion. Like Stephen, both were secretly rebels, in the unsuccessful rebellion of 1798, back in their native land, and fugitives now. After much work, the ship is finally ready for duty, small but adequate, but his men still need training, many days of it. When he goes to see the Admiral, Lord Keith, to thank him, his bride Quenney is also there, a close friend, the former neighbor and tutor of Jack's, in his youth. It doesn't take long, for the astonished Aubrey, to guess how he got to be captain. But Captain Harte, commandant in Port Mahon, will not help the new master and commander of the Sophie, with needed material and supplies, the jealous man, knows about his wife Molly's, dalliance with him. He receives help elsewhere, though. Leaving the great harbor, on convoy duty, in his first assignment, at sea, protecting merchantman's ships, heading east, to Italy. A surprise attack by Moors, from North Africa, guns blaze, plenty of broadsides are fired and a few hit, destruction occurs, but he does well and all arrive safely. The beautiful Mediterranean Sea, is full of enemies but storms can be as deadly, the Sophie discovers. Rolling and going up high into the sky, and down deep into the valley , of water, while looking at the sea above them, yes, you have to have a strong stomach to be a sailor, and a little nuts too. Luck is with Aubrey and he lives to take prize ships of their foes, and a share of the profits also, back to port. His crew naturally love him, they share the money, and seamen always can use some extra cash. So a small increase of drinking, on shore, wine, women and song, what's the harm? Don't ask the natives of Minorca, or the tavern owners. More tense sea battles with enemy warships, French and Spanish( ships of the line), some larger and with a greater number of guns, they foolishly followed Aubrey, but he is a very brave man, maybe too much so...Exciting novel, the first of twenty, by Patrick O'Brian, if you don't get seasick, it will be a very pleasant read and voyage.

  • Ted
    2019-04-01 06:49

    The music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet. The players … were playing with passionate conviction as they mounted towards the penultimate crescendo, towards the tremendous pause and the deep, liberating final chord.Thus the first sentence of Master and Commander; thus begins the grand series of historical novels penned by Patrick O’Brian over the last three decades of the last century. The author.Patrick O’Brian (1914-2000) was born Richard Patrick Russ in Buckinghamshire, of an English physician of German descent, and an English woman of Irish descent. The eighth of nine children, he lost his mother at the age of four, and led “a fairly isolated childhood, limited by poverty.” He married his first wife in 1936, had two children, one of whom died young; worked as an ambulance driver in the second War, and possibly in intelligence of some sort; got divorced; in July ’45 married a second time (a woman whom he lived with happily until her death in 1998); and soon after changed his name to Patrick O’Brian. In the half-century plus that he and his second wife lived together, a few early years were spent in Wales, but mostly they lived in a Catalan town in the south of France. Besides the “Aubrey-Maturin” series of novels, O’Brian wrote several other fictional books, some collections of short stories, three non-fiction works (including books on Picasso and Joseph Banks), and translated works, by both Henri Charriere (the Papillon books) and by Simone de Beauvoir, into English.But it is for the Aubrey-Maturin series that O’Brian is best known, and for which he will be long remembered. This was not always the case, however.Master and Commander,the first book in the series, appeared in 1969, and in the years following, as additional books in the series appeared, they gained modest readership in both England and the U.S. Then in 1988 an editor at W.W. Norton, Starling Lawrence, discovered the novels and Norton began publishing them. They attracted more serious critics and reviewers, sales took off, and O’Brian spent the remainder of his days as a more public author (not so welcome, since he enjoyed his privacy) and also a much better remunerated one (more welcome, I presume). The last two years of his life, after his wife died, were a very difficult time for O’Brian, though he did continue to write. He died in Dublin.The series. “Aubrey-Maturin” refers to the two main characters in the novels. There are twenty completed books in the series, which take place in chronological order. The first novel begins in 1800 at Port Mahon, on the island of Menorca in the Balearics. (The British had recaptured the island from France in 1798 and were using Port Mahon as a key naval base in the Mediterranean.) The twentieth novel takes place in 1815, after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and thus is the only one of the series to not take place in the period of the Napoleonic Wars. This conflict provides the general historic backdrop as the novels progress - though in fact the internal chronology of the books is quite bizarre, due to the fact that O’Brian had no idea at the outset that twenty novels would be written, squeezed into a period of fifteen historic years which had mostly been used up by the sixth book. (See There is a final 21st novel, The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey, published in the U.S. under the title 21. This work was incomplete when O’Brian passed away in 2000.The series is set in almost all the seas of the world: the Southern Ocean, the Mediterranean, the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, the waters around the China Sea; and on land too in all these areas, with adventures involving exploration, espionage, interaction with political as well as naval power. The ups and downs of the main character's careers, their love lives, their wins and losses in the game of life, all told brilliantly in the evolving history of the early nineteenth century.O’Brian is a master of character, whose writing has actually been compared quite often to Jane Austen’s. Thus his historical novels are felt by many (including me) to transcend the genre and in so-doing approach the altar of classic literature.Technical interlude.O’Brian schooled himself in the most detailed knowledge of the ships of this age, not only of Great Britain’s but of many other nations; and in the arcane terms and methods which were used in sailing them. This is why each of the books has the illustration depicted above spread over two pages right up front. The reader needs this diagram to understand even partially something like the following:As the wind came round on to the beam they set staysails and the fore-and-aft mainsail ... Now, with the studdingsails in, the chase - or the ghost of the chase, a pale blur showing now and then on the lifting swell - could be seen from the quarter-deck ...A book, A Sea of Words, was published many years after the series started appearing. It contains a wealth of additional information about the ships, about sailing terms, and about many of the lands, political groups, animals, birds, and plants mentioned in the series. (This is only a mention, not an endorsement. I have looked at it briefly, but never tried using it while reading the novels.)This book introduces the two main characters in the series: Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, who become acquainted by chance when they both attend the chamber music concert at the Governor’s House.Jack Aubrey is an officer of the Royal Navy, who has just been given his first command as Captain of His Majesty’s Sloop Sophie. Maturin is an Irish physician, whose background and activities (beyond medicine) are revealed piece by piece through the first few books.Aubrey needs a ship’s surgeon, and Maturin is his man. Thus begins the saga. (I'm not bothering to offer any plot summary here - I don't really like them. If you want one, see spoiler)[The Sophie is a fictional counterpart of an actual ship in the Royal Navy, Speedy. Not only that, but some of Jack Aubrey’s exploits in the first few books of the series are similar to naval actions which a couple of the captains of Speedy achieved in her years around 1800. See .(hide spoiler)]The characters. Aubrey is a relatively uncomplicated man, prone to making questionable judgments in his personal life, but supremely capable of making first rate decisions in his chosen line of work, that of commanding, sailing, navigating and fighting a warship in the age of sail.Maturin is quite incapable of grasping the nuances of ships, sails, rigging - even of getting on and off ships when not firmly tied to land. But like Jack he is beyond “capable” in his chosen profession of surgical and medical care.(view spoiler)[For much additional detail on these characters, seeJack Aubrey andStephen Maturin.(hide spoiler)]There is much humor in the series, but Jack and Steven have quite different takes on what is funny. Steven possesses a wry humor which sometimes goes quite over Jack’s head, whilst Jack’s punning and often ribald flings are received by Stephen with a studied and polite graciousness.Stephen is a zoologist and botanist par excellence, who is particularly interested in ornithology. Throughout the series his delight at sighting unexpected or remarkable birds is a recurring motif. Despite their differences, Jack and Stephen share two traits which make their friendship a lasting one, and underpin the esteem which they feel for each other. The first, and perhaps less important, is their love of Baroque chamber music – not only listening to it, but playing it together, whenever an extra couple musicians happen to be on board. There is a CD called Musical Evenings with the Captain, containing pieces by Locatelli, Haydn, Handel, Boccherini and Leclair which are played by Aubrey, Maturin and guests in the novels. Quite good.More important than the music, however, is their shared dedication to the men under their command or care. Aubrey and Maturin, so different outwardly, are inwardly motivated, when engaged in their professional duties, with doing right by these men, not with demonstrating their skills for personal glory. This is what makes the characters of the two so endearing, and inexorably pulls the reader from one book to the next.Highly recommended to readers who like historical novels, and readers of series. Start with this one. It will certainly convince you one way of the other about all the rest of them (though I have seen opinions that the first book is not as exciting and finely wrought as some of the later entries).By the way The movie of the same name, starring Russell Crowe, is made of pieces of several different novels in the series. It is mostly based on the tenth novel, not this one. 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  • Kelly
    2019-04-19 03:50

    You know, I've often been annoyed by the fact that so many times, I never get to experience something the way it was intended, or to its fullest. Because someone else always gets there first, and someone's else's eyes are always put in front of mine before I get the chance to do it for myself (I recall writing a very emotional paper on Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, the Chevalier book and the movie that followed along these lines. Yeah, I was a silly teenager). I often see the parodies of many things before I see the things themselves- but I guess that's both postmoderism and a modern culture that endlessly, endlessly reaches into the past to mine for stories to sell in the present. But in this case, I choose not to be annoyed by the fact that it was a blonde-ified Russell Crowe who first introduced me to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series because once you experience these books for themselves, there's really no way that any reinterpretation can top the greatness of the real thing.Whatever I had expected from this series, I got something entirely different. I don't know what I had in my head- some swords, some 'Huzzah!'s and sweeping music, set against a background of crashing waves and imperialist-era English bravado. And oh sure, that was all there, but not until much later, and I didn't even notice it tick off on my register of preconceived parameters.Master and Commander opens with Jack Aubrey's mental impressions of attending a Polite Society musical concert- something that wouldn't have a place in any other seafaring tale, but is indispensible for this particular story. Without giving anything too much away, the story follows Jack Aubrey and the physician Stephen Maturin through various adventures and misadventures of the naval life during the Wars with the French (the book opens in 1800, technically right before Napoleon's total control of the situation), and deals with everything, in terms of events, from the dissection of a dolphin to the etiquette attending relations among naval officers and their responsibilities, relations with enemies (some of the scenes with opposing French officers were exquisitely hilarious as well as revealing of history), to rip roaring (and incredibly suspenseful pageturning) naval engagements of every size and scale. We read the naval engagements out loud, and I wouldnt've had it any other way- don't miss out on someone's dramatic, impatient voice trying to get to the next words when reading this one.In terms of larger themes- there are a staggering lot of them dealt with in this book. This is not simply an adventure tale by a long shot. The characters both outwardly and psychologically deal with a range of issues that torment them in various ways. Just to deal with a few- the very complicated and paradoxically precarious and set in stone class system of the time, the nature of nationalism and nations, the effects of a life of violence upon the men who undergo it and a society that depends upon it, the Irish characters that have to deal with the fallout of the Irish Rebellion and general inter-cultural and inter-religious politics, money money money that makes the world go 'round, the proper motivations of a man, and ultimately, the questions of identity that endlessly pick apart these men's brilliant facades. Set perfectly at a time when the Age of Enlightenment was still the dominant mirror of the time, but with Romanticism and where it comes from easily to be seen peeking around a corner- Maturin and Aubrey perfectly straddle this era, with all the best that can be from those particular traditions, and some of their flaws as well.O'Brian is a brilliant illustrator of character and particularly of the inner life of the mind, and is able to express everything about his characters that needs to be said through a combination of thoughts and action that both move the plot along, and bring give us depth into the life of the men and women who populate this novel. (As a caveat for this, there are a few characters such as the avaricious Mr. Ellis and Molly Harte, who do suffer from a bit of stereotyping, but I'm willing to accept them as ciphers because they're such entertaining ones.) He's able to show us what these people would be like to grow up squabbling with, to sit next to at dinner, and deal with professionally. (His evocations of Jack Aubrey's enthusiasms and despairs are particular favorites of mine, I want to wrap them up in a big bear hug and never let them go.) I feel I've been acquainted with whole people who are not mere Heroes Who Wave About a Shining Sword, or Villains With Moustaches- and yet, I feel as if I have read a novel that would normally be inhabited by those people, if you see what I'm saying. With somewhat largely the same tones and people and events... but I'm getting filled in about parts that another author couldn't give a shit about, by the guy who writes awesome footnotes a la Susanna Clarke, which are better than the story sometimes.And of course, I cannot say enough about the language. Please, I beg of you, do not be frightened off by O'Brian's incredibly researched naval cant and constant incantations of ropes, sales, decks, and navigational terms. I reached the end of the book still not knowing what about half the terms here meant, and do you know what? I don't really even think it matters. I looked up some of the terms that were coming up every page, sure, and do that if you must, but don't give up! Just listen to it, just imagine someone's voice saying it- you'll figure it out like those first grade exercises in context clues, you'll get the gist of it. O'Brian will take care of you, I promise. Just listen to the singsong tone- this man /loves/ language, and it doesn't need a rhyming sailor to tell me that. He could have written this as Rhapsodies on a Naval Theme, really. It would have been a beautiful symphony. Just go with it- it doesn't matter if they're turning 45 degrees to the right to tack into the wind coming from the mainland in order to swing around the back of a ship- trust me, when they fire the guns and bust up the stern, you'll know what's going on, or you'll figure it out pretty quickly. Of course, you do have to pay attention, and you should- truly, this man's manipulation of the English language (and frequently, corruptions of it) is something to see.So yeah, I think I'm ready if there's a Robot Chicken Does Jack Aubrey. Pretty sure nothing can kill my totally unironic love for these amazing books. Can't wait to keep reading!(PS- History sticklers, yes, I did classify this as "Regency", and yes I am aware that the actual Regency does not begin until 1811, but I'm using the looser Regency definition that encompases culture and thought and George III's decline, even if the Regency wasn't official yet. So there! I sniff in your general direction!)

  • Brad
    2019-04-14 04:51

    ii. I'm at it again, but this time I opened up my Aubrey-Maturin reread by listening. It took a month of commuting, but it was worth the time and the patience, and though I have gleaned no new insights into Master and Commander, my enjoyment of the audio experience was more than fulfilling enough.O'Brian wasn't a big fan of the audio versions of his books, nor of the men reading them: “To revert to my ideal reader: he would avoid obvious emotion, italics and exclamation marks like the plague - trying to put life into flat prose is as useful as flogging a dead horse.” As a fan of O'Brian's "flat prose," however, and one who is only coming to the audio books after having read the novels multiple times, the life that his readers bring to the characters is as welcome as a fine Madeira off Gibraltar.I've long heard that Patrick Tull is the man to listen too when it comes to Aubrey-Maturin books, but my MP3 copy of Master and Commander was read by Simon Vance. I was a little disappointed at first because I wanted to hear and engage with Tull's reported excellence, but once Vance's vocal performance began, once Stephen and Jack were jostling one another during the concert at the Governor's Mansion, I was content.The voices of Jack and Stephen took some getting used to (and I am not a fan of Vance's Spanish accent), but the range of his vocalizations is quite impressive. And I really enjoyed his narrative voice. It is clear, emotive without being too much so, and he offers a real liveliness during Naval actions. I think my favorite part of his reading, though, was his characterization of First Lieutenant James Dillon. Dillon is an important corner of the first book's Aubrey-Maturin-Dillon triangle, and his presence is key to the love Aubrey and Maturin come to have for one another. Vance captures the subtlety of this, making Dillon likable even when he's being unfair to Jack -- as it should be.It was such a good experience that I have already purchased Post Captain. Tull may be the best reader of Aubrey-Maturin, but don't be afraid of Vance, especially if you've not heard Tull before, he does a commendable job.i. When I do finally get around to writing my PhD, I want to do my work on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series. It offers endless possibilities for critical analysis and even more possibilities for discussion. One could paint politics, science, sports, warfare, literary allusions, sexuality, manners, and all things naval of Aubrey/Maturin without ever tiring the possibilities, and these are only the broadest strokes. Each of these themes -- and countless others I haven't mentioned -- generate focused areas of specialization that could cover everything from the most general to the most minute.But when you're rereading Master and Commander (in my case it's the first rereading), most of those concerns take a backseat to the simple strength of O'Brian's vision. Everything you need to know about Lucky Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin takes shape in O'Brian's masterpiece of an inaugural novel, and one wonders how much of O'Brian's twenty and a half books he had in his mind the day he sat down to start writing the story with his pen and paper. The first book foreshadows the last, and for a series that reaches upwards of 10,000 thousand pages, that level of coherence and depth is a tremendous feat.We learn of Jack's genius at sea and his social ineptness on land. We learn of his needy ego and unquenchable desire for advancement. We learn of his fierce loyalty and his even fiercer libido. We learn of his pure love for his ships and how that love opens him up to emotional wounding. We're introduced also to nearly every person who will be important to Jack, for good or ill, over the course of his career.We learn of Stephen's love for naturalism and physic. We learn of his deep loyalty of and care for Jack. We get hints, if we are paying close attention, to his role as a spy and his frighteningly dangerous temper. We are introduced to his loathing of Napoleon and his indifference to King George. We are shown the earliest manifestations of his shipmates' respect for his skills, and his absolute inability to understand anything nautical. We even get a hint that he will never leave Jack's side.And of course we are introduced to Jack's fiddle, Stephen's cello and Killick's toasted cheese, which are at the heart of what I think is the most compelling component of the Aubrey/Maturin books -- the intimacy between Jack and Stephen.No matter whom they marry, whom they hate, whom they love, whom they care for, whom they save, whom they kill, they are and will always be the most important people in each others lives; from the moment they bump heads at the concert to the last moment of 21, Aubrey and Maturin are intimates in every emotional sense of the word. They are intimate in a way that Holmes and Watson, Crusoe and Friday, and Jeeves and Wooster never approach. They are as close as two humans can be, and I find myself longing for that companionship. Of course it is impossible, but I can live vicariously through Aubrey/Maturin, and for any man longing for intimacy in a world that denies men intimacy, Master and Commander, and every book that follows, is a boon companion in a lonely world.Next up: Post Captain...again...and I can't wait.

  • Joe
    2019-03-20 08:04

    Maybe it's a blasphemy, but I prefer the Aubrey-Maturin series to all others, even Holmes-Watson. Every book is packed to absolute straining with erudition, wit, history, and thunderous action. I read two books from the series every year - they're reliable standbys when I absolutely must read something I know I will love.

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-04-18 06:05

    Master and Commander begins English author Patrick O'Brian's lush and literary epic seafaring historical fiction series based on the career of a naval captain during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Through out the entire series O'Brian delves into the themes of love, war and friendship. At the heart of M&C is the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Irish surgeon and naturalist Stephen Maturin. When they meet at the book's outset - Aubrey a lieutenant without a ship, Maturin a doctor without a penny - they nearly kill one another, but fortune forgives all and these two entirely opposite individuals are brought together into an unlikely but mutually beneficial friendship, one that at times tests boundaries, but also one that warms the reader's heart. To fully enjoy these books you must cast your mind into that period, the very dawn on the 19th century, the Age of Sail, the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. As much of the story plays out upon ships serving the Royal Navy, English customs and manners are the rules of the game. Serving under the Englishman Aubrey and being Irish, Maturin and a fellow countryman bridle at this, but follow suit and guardedly hide their pasts to preserve their own skins. At the beginning of the series Aubrey is the focal point. O'Brian fashioned him after real-life naval hero Admiral Thomas Cochrane. Brash, daring but not reckless, Cochrane made the perfect image from which to mould fictional heroes. Among other writers, C.S. Forester used Cochrane to create his much beloved Horatio Hornblower character. Though an admiral by the end of his career, Cochrane was not as widely known to the world outside of England after his own time (there's only so much room for the Nelsons and Wellingtons of the world), so his career could be mined for material, even mirrored in many cases, without the general reading public catching on a century or two later. At first I hesitated to read O'Brian's work. I'd just read Forester's Hornblower series and I felt like O'Brian was merely treading upon his coattails. But Forester's work had left me wanting more and I'd also recently seen Peter Weir's movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," which I enjoyed, so while perusing books at a shop one day and coming across M&C I flipped it open and read a couple paragraphs. I was hooked. The writing flowed with an ease, brilliance and heart that Forester's more stoic prose lacked. O'Brian is called the Jane Austen of his time and genre. Perhaps that is off-putting for some, but for me it equates literary excellence. It means exercising the English language and thrusting your pen into purpose-driven plotting. Some will find the in-depth descriptions of ships and ship life laborious. I can't totally disagree. In fact M&C's publishers were hesitant to green light the book for that very reason. Here's a suggestion: muscle through those bits. Don't worry if you don't know the difference between bow and stern, port and starboard, or the maintop and the bilge. Stephen Maturin is used as the landsman foil through which much naval jargon may be learned and if you remain as ignorant as he does, you'll be fine. But on the other hand, if you like sailing, the navy, and attention to friend, you've struck gold!Synopsis:Reading about old naval battles may not be everyone's cup of tea. Thankfully O'Brian goes well beyond other writers of the genre, such as C.S. Forester's more limited scope by delving deep into the minds of his main characters. The full range of human behavior and the resulting affects it has on their actions is entwined so beautifully with O'Brian's full descriptive prose, touching on all the senses. Those with short attention spans demanding constant action maybe too impatient to read through these elegantly and intricately designed scenes with their highly tuned subtlety and nuance. But most will probably find that the author has struck a marvelous balance between literary high-mindedness and high-seas adventure.Rating: I am tempted to give this five stars, and if it weren't for the too-lengthy and minute descriptions of naval matters, I probably would. The Movie: Movies based on books are what they are: condensed versions that are not always representative of the original. Sourced from two books (and maybe more), while entirely leaving out a storyline integral to the book series, Weir's directorial effort represents M&C fairly well in its bursts of action between languid pauses to breathe in real life and the horrors/wonders of the world.My review of book two, Post Captain:

  • Diane
    2019-03-28 03:36

    Ahoy, calling all fans of historical fiction! This first book in Patrick O'Brian's popular series about a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars was a surprising delight.I say surprising because even though I had seen some great reviews of it by fellow Goodreaders, I was intimidated to read it out of fear of the nautical jargon. I listened to this on audio (narrated by the excellent Simon Vance) and I was glad I also had a print copy handy so I could look up some terms. My edition had a nice illustration of a square-rigged ship, which showed the difference between a flying jib, a fore topsail, a mizzen staysail, etc., and some of those terms were helpful in understanding the action during the battle scenes.But before I scare you away from this novel with any more references to jibs and mainsails, let's go back to the beginning. The story opens in 1800 with lieutenant Jack Aubrey at a music concert in Port Mahon, Minorca, where he has the bromance version of a "meet cute" with physician Stephen Maturin. At first the two men detest each other, but after Jack learns he's been promoted to commander of the ship Sophie, he's so upbeat that when he runs into Stephen again, they become friends and bond over music. Jack impulsively asks Stephen to join his crew and be the ship's surgeon, and that is the beginning of a beautiful friendship that apparently lasts 20 books.Stephen is not a member of the British navy, and thank goodness for that. He is a brilliant physician and naturalist, but his ignorance of nautical matters means that Jack and the other crew members are always explaining things to him (and to us poor readers). My favorite parts of the book were the conversations between Jack and Stephen, Stephen's outsider perspective on all things naval, and the different battle strategies used at sea.O'Brian has a good sense of humor, and I frequently laughed out loud while listening. Fans of the movie "Master and Commander: Far Side of the World" should know that the movie plot follows the story of later books in the series, so this first book doesn't have much in common with it. But if you enjoyed the movie, as I did, and it whetted your appetite for the first stage of friendship between Jack and Stephen, then you should beat to quarters and get yourself a copy of this book.

  • Simon
    2019-03-22 11:38

    I loved the film, and really, really wanted to love this book (with plans to go on and read others in the series) but with the exception of perhaps the first chapter, I found the first hundred pages to be sheer drudgery. O'Brian is obviously a brilliant writer and scholar, but the lengths to which he luxuriates in nautical lingo - coupled with the already flowery (however beautiful) vernacular of the time - rendered the text incredibly inaccessible in terms of a casual read. I'm years out of school now, and have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else - I just want to enjoy (and understand) what I read. There are too many books in the world, and life's too short, and if all I can do while I'm reading is cast longing glances at the next book on my bedside table, it's time to move on.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-04-14 05:37

    “Patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.” ― Patrick O'Brian, Master and CommanderOver the years I've collected O'Brian's paperback novels at used book stores, sale racks, goodwills, etc., one or two at a time. I almost have a complete paperback set (I also recently broke down and bought a four volume complete set), but didn't yet feel quite ready to attack. I needed a push or a promoting. Last year I finished the The Diary of Samuel Pepys - Complete and with Pepys constant work with the English Navy I was suddenly very interested. After reading a couple other books that spanned the same 'general' period of English naval history, I felt it was time I jumped in. I knew it was going to be good. I have a friend who is a writer and has written dozens of New York Times bestsellers (he is a ghost writer so few are penned directly under his name) and he also encouraged me to jump into these books. I saw the Russell Crowe movie (which drew on many of O'Brian's books, but primarily on The Far Side of the World, Desolation Island, and Master and Commander). I think all of these things pushed me towards the series, but the one big pull. The drag. The thing that kept these books at a distance was the fear of the void. I knew that I would adore them from the get go, and once I started there is a certain amount of self-awareness I possess to know that I wasn't going to be able to just nibble at these books. Hell, there are twenty different books in the Master and Commander: 20 Volume Set.There are many things to love about this book. The characters are amazing (especially Captain Jack Aubrey, Dr. Stephen Maturin, and First Lieutenant James Dillon). This would be a good book if O'Brian just told a good sea yarn, but that is just one piece. His details about the period and ships are amazing. His nuanced and smooth look at power, nationalism, war, men, psychology, science, etc. propels this book into the top ranks of historical novels. Again, I'm only one book deep into this series, but I must admit now that I'm finished with Master & Commander, it was like I imagined and like I feared. So, my sails are set, the rigging is tight. 19 more books to go I guess, and I might just do it before the end of the year.

  • Meredith Holley
    2019-03-26 03:51

    This book is very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of men the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog. Usually it seemed like the men were always criticizing each other behind one another's backs and this usually arose from something like “he has slightly insulted my honor or friend, perhaps unintentionally, I'm not going to find out, I'm just going to list off and exaggerate every one of his faults because it will create a deeper bond between me and my brother or friend try to kill him.” This book profoundly depressed me. It helped to destroy any hopes I had of ever having a happy relationship with a man. JUST KIDDING! But, this book did take me on a stroll down recent-memory lane. In case that comment gets somehow deleted, here it is:(view spoiler)[ Justin wrote: “This reminds me of what I started telling people about this book after I first read it. ‘It's very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of women the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog.’ I don't remember who Elinor was but I remember scene after scene playing out like what you describe. Although usually it seemed like the women were always criticizing each other behind one another's backs and this usually arose from something like ‘She has slightly insulted my sister or friend, perhaps unintentionally, I'm not going to find out, I'm just going to list off and exagerate every one of her faults because it will create a deeper bond between me and my sister or friend.’ This book profoundly depressed me. It helped to destroy any hopes I had of ever having a happy relationship with a woman. Luckily, it taught me to avoid mistakes in the future. It taught me the rules to a game that no one had ever taught me but which women consider all important and it suddenly made sense of all the times that whole swaths of women would suddenly turn against me after being so nice to me. I guess it should be praised for being true to life. just like in real life, the people in this book don't try to communicate with those they have a grievance with. They just take pleasure in the grievance. World War One? All of humanity througout all of human history. Anyway, it doesn't seem like anything gets resolved through the hard work of communication which real relationships require. Things just get accidentally discovered about Mr. Darcy, making him oh so attractive, because if he had tried to straighten things out directly he would have looked arrogant and insensitive. I like how sensitive he was to people on the big issues at the end, but all those hoops that had to be jumped through in an empty, empty game....why? Human selfishness. Self and selfishibility.” (hide spoiler)]I was wondering about whether it meant that I have some kind of hatred of men that I’m not aware of, and it was belied by the fact that, while I was listening to this book, I kept thinking about Justin’s colorful expression of hating women. But, no, I don’t think I hate men. That I know of. Just sometimes y’all can be a little hypocritical in your descriptions of why you hate women. But, who isn’t hypocritical sometimes? I hate bananas, but I love banana bread. Humanity is so complex.Master and Commander made me think a little about how some sorts of interpersonal interactions are the same across genders, but they do feel different, somehow. This book was a lot of kicking up heels at a sleepover and obsessing about what somebody meant when he dropped a random hint at an accusation, gabbing about the nature of feelings, showing off about clothes and food, and gossiping about how to manage social status while dating. Since I’ve tolerated, or even enjoyed, those happenings in other books, I took to thinking about why this book was so shockingly boring to me. The obvious answer is that it was men who were doing those things and that somehow just the very nature of someone different than me doing them bores me. That would be so weird, but MAYBE TRUE! Could it just be the fact of the different appearance that makes the interpersonal deathly dull here, where it is immensely compelling in Austen? There are at least two things definitely going on here, other than just the failure to provide a physically identifiable character for me, that made this book astoundingly boring. The first is the prevaricating about emotion and the interpersonal. The second, of course, is the women.On the prevarication point, it’s just not very interesting to listen to someone be like, “IDK, maybe I like him, maybe I don’t” for HOURS. You know? I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman saying it. “Maybe I want to challenge him to a duel; maybe my sense of honor can’t reconcile with my position; maybe I was too brave or not brave enough!” Good golly. Somebody tell a joke! One time, I posted this Virginia Woolf quote on facebook. It was from her writer’s diary, and it referred to these established male writers, friends of hers, who were critiquing her work. They didn’t care for it, but their critiques seemed to have missed something very basic in what she was saying. I don’t remember exactly what the quote was, but it said something like, “It is so difficult for the genders to communicate that among these very wise men, sometimes they will say things, and I can’t help but think that it sounds very similar to stupidity.” The day after I posted that quote, a man I know came up to me and expressed that he was offended I would post something that was so clearly anti-men on my facebook. And I couldn’t help but think him saying that so took the quote to mean the opposite of what it actually means that it sounded similar to stupidity. So, maybe there is something similar in my reaction here, where all of the interactions among the men in this book seem so See Spot Run that it is difficult to be interested. But, I am probably missing something.On the unfortunate women point . . . well, there’s not much to say about that. This book has no very good opinion of women, black people, or homosexuals. It doesn’t like us, folks, so we best move along. I think it is fair to bring stuff back around to Austen at this point. She doesn’t write her books about the men folk, so her male characters do have a tendency to be somewhat flat and act as props for the women to grow around. I think she loves her men, though. I love her men, at least. But, this. Wheeeuuu. Not a fan of the women. They’re either morons who basically speak in gibberish, or whores who ruin men’s lives. We are not welcome. And the gays get shot, but, you know, you had it coming. Black people . . . well, you can be useful at times, but no one understands your speech. So, you best walk on by. Oh, man, I am so tired of talking about people who hate people for dumb reasons. Start being more interesting, you guys!Point: it would be interesting to jump into the skin of someone who could have identified with any of this to see if I would then have found it interesting. But, I wouldn't want to live in that skin.Anyway, I don’t feel . . . angry . . . or really anything about this book. It is just boring. I wouldn’t say there is any objective redeeming value, but apparently some people like it. They made a movie of it. It might be saying something, but to me it sounds a lot like stupidity.

  • Leighton
    2019-04-17 06:53

    I'm putting this volume on my list to represent the entire twenty-volume series, which I've almost finished now. If you saw the Peter Weir movie, my impression was that the period detail was nice and Russell Crowe was well-cast but the rest of the film really didn't convey what is wonderful about Patrick O'Brian's mind. These are naval adventure stories, set mostly aboard a British man-of-war during the Napoleonic conflicts. In those respects they are like C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, which are great yarns in their own right (Hemingway, for one, thought highly of them). But the differences are more remarkable than the similarities. Some of the differences are obviously deliberate: while Forester's theme was the loneliness of command, O'Brian gives us two equal protagonists, the commander Jack Aubrey and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin, whose friendship is the main subject of the stories; whereas Hornblower was tone-deaf, Aubrey and Maturin spend leisure hours playing Haydn and Corelli; and in distinction from the pragmatical Hornblower, O'Brian's heroes are both members of the Royal Society -- Aubrey a mathematician and Maturin a naturalist. But the more important differences lie in O'Brian's deeper and broader conception of the historical period (much of it conveyed through Maturin's work as a secret agent and political advisor) and his more finely tuned sense of character and social relationships (shown most impressively in O'Brian's ability to create complex and convincing women, which Forester really couldn't). The social sensibility is why people compare O'Brian to Jane Austen, if you can imagine a Jane Austen whose characters are earthy, violent, cunning, sexual, often intoxicated, and constantly traveling to exotic parts of the world.

  • Tim
    2019-03-21 10:38

    It’s 1800 and the British navy is at war with Napoleon. Jack Aubrey is given command of his first ship. The main and most lovingly drawn character in this book is the ship itself, the Sophie. The knowledge Patrick O’Brian has of 19th century naval vessels is remarkable, almost overwhelming. I have to confess that at times there was almost too much research in this novel. Virtually every sentence contains nautical terms that I had to look up. It’s a very cinematic novel – more focused on action scenes than character interaction and this was another facet that prevented me from loving it. There’s only really three key relationships in the novel and even these are confused somewhat by vague allusions to the Irish problem, the purpose of which never became clear to me. That said, it’s hard to imagine better descriptions of sailing ships at battle. Especially fascinating was the whims of the wind in determining the course of a battle. It’s also part of a very long series so the court martial at the end was deprived of all tension by the knowledge that Aubrey would live to fight another day.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-04-13 05:50

    Now, this is my favorite maritime historical novel. It has just dislodged Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdhal and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen. The reason: the detailed and vivid writing of Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000). How could a trained pilot write a 20-novel Aubrey-Maturin (yes, this is 411-page book is just the first) about naval warfare during Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) with such details and jargons as if he was from the era? Read this book and be amazed by the details of the sea battles like the sinking of enemy ships, the killing of the ship crews, the splattering of blood and brains on the cabins. They are just amazing as those will give you the feeling that you were there witnessing those gory scenes.Wait. Before you think that this novel is gory and about senseless killings, those scenes are just few. At least for this first book of the series. Overall, this is about the unlikely friendship between two men: the fat and voracious eater English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish-Catalan physician-on-board Stephen Maturin. I said unlikely because their personalities are totally opposite each other like sun and moon. Jack is outgoing while Stephen is reserved. Jack is aggressive and rah-rah while Stephen is reflective and cautious. However, there is one trait they share: their love of music. And if you have the sea, music and edge-of-your-seat battles, you have my full attention as a reader.Granted. There are just too many navy jargons that I did not care looking up in my Lexicon dictionary or Google up. I just brushed them aside. That helped. There were actually nights that this put me to sleep. But I guess those details make this a different reading experience. When boredom happens while I am reading a book and I want to continue, I normally look for its movie adaptation. However, 2003 Russell Crowe-starrer Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World did not help. The plot, although the battle scenes were similar to what happened in the book, is almost unrecognizable. Jack Aubrey in the book is fat while Crowe is a gladiator-type of slim. Well, of course we do not want fat guys in a kick-ass sea adventure movie ha ha.Master and Commander. The term was explained by Stephen as redundant or misnomer. The Master reports to the Commander. In fact, this is only one person: Jack Aubrey. This is just an example of the many blah blahs in the book narratives that put me to I was able to catch. There are other interesting characters like Lieutenant Dillon who has crossed paths with Stephen before, and whose discontent at his new captain's lust for prize money begins to simmer when lack stops to secure a captured vessel rather than chasing another foe. Some of Jack's dilemmas are comical - what to do with a goat-buggering sailor and hos to assuage his crew's supernatural fear of the resident sin eater. Others are practical - how to drill his men to achieve a decent rate of fire with the cannon. In battle the warfare of his brig (the Sophie) and all the men aboard hinge on his decisions, which is where O'Brian's flabbergasting depth of knowledge is revealed. Seamen's customs and language, every detail of the Sophie's construction and the historical setting in which Jack's men sail are delivered as convincingly as if O'Brian has lived in the early 1800.O'Brian has left a legacy with his 20-novel Aubrey-Maturin series. Oh well, 19 more to go.

  • Tristan
    2019-03-29 08:54

    “Never mind manoeuvres, always go at them.”-Patrick O'Brian, Master and CommanderO'Brian's Master & Commander, the first of his impressively lengthy 21-volume Aubrey/Maturinseries which takes place during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, surely must have one of the all-time great set-ups of a male friendship in all of literature. The meeting of our two protagonists - Jack Aubrey an impoverished lieutenant aching for command of a ship, Stephen Maturin a rather aimless surgeon with a deep love for natural philosophy - takes place during an intimate musical performance in the Governor's House at Port Mahon. Aubrey, not the most sophisticated nor cultured of men, lost in excitement manages to ruin the performance for his neighbour Maturin with his loud, improperly timed showings of appreciation. The encounter, coming dangerously close to violence when the normally timid Maturin has to resort to delivering Aubrey a not so gentle elbow poke in the ribs, isn't a pleasant one to say the least. The two men dislike each other intensely, and part ways. This all changes when Aubrey, having unexpectedly been granted the position of captain of the HMS Sophie, is suddenly filled with a more genial, joyous spirit and, when seeing Maturin in the street, apologizes to him. The two share drink and food, and find common ground. A sense of mutual appreciation and respect quickly develops. Pretty soon, Maturin is asked by Aubrey to act as the ship's doctor, an offer which he gladly accepts, kicking off their first adventure on the high seas. My initial exposure to the series, which then I didn't realize existed, was through the Peter Weir 2003 film Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World, which ranks very high on my list of pre-1914 historical war films. It really is a stupendous piece of filmmaking, with the utmost respect for historical accuracy in as much as is possible for a Hollywood product. Approaching the book as a more seasoned reader of English prose was an absolute joy. It was wise of me to wait, in order to extract as much as possible from the experience. There is some pretty terrific stuff to be found here. O'Brian's characterisation is masterfully developed, his feel for the period spot on, and his precise use of authentic language mesmerizing. The many historical details and tidbits almost made me giddy, it is those that elevate a piece of historical fiction above all the rest. With all the nautical jargon, and period-specific sayings I grant it may take some time getting used to for a relative newcomer, but after a 100 pages or so you just course through it unimpeded. Quite dense, yet not heavy-handed, which is a delicate balance to maintain. I savoured every chapter, every page, every line. The only reason I'm not going for a full 5 stars rating (I was tempted though), is that I very much desired to see more of Maturin. His observations of life aboard a man of war, of its crew from an outsider's perspective and his many investigations of the natural world and its denizens (it was the birth of the age of Enlightenment after all), were utterly compelling. But, I have 20 other novels to look forward to. The cumulative effect of having read all those I am certain will secure the series a spot in my private pantheon. The ship is ready, and the journey has only just begun..

  • Jim
    2019-04-10 06:45

    I read the Hornblower series not long ago, also as audio books, & this series was recommended to me. The comparison is obvious since both cover the same subject, a British officer during the Napoleonic Wars & beyond. Both are historically accurate in many ways, although this series seems a bit richer for historical detail, one of the good by-products of O'Brian's wordy style.Well read by Simon Vance. He always does a good job & is particularly suited to this series.The characters are also more full blown. Aubrey is far more likeable & understandable than Hornblower. He really lives life to the fullest, chats up the ladies, & gets stupid drunk occasionally. Far more believable. He shares many qualities with Hornblower, though. It was interesting just how much, especially in getting his crew into action. The addition of the doctor, who has no sea experience, really helps explain much to the reader.Again, I'm impressed & horrified at life on a ship at the time. The sheer number of men that are crammed on is incredible. I was a bit confused by only 14" to swing a hammock until it was explained. They really get twice that - 28". Ugh! Incredible.I'm also impressed by how savage & cordial enemy combatants were to each other. On the one hand, they have no problem falsifying flags until the last moment, blowing the crap out of each other with canon, or hacking each to pieces. They're horrified of fire, yet take that as just one of those things. Once the action is over, they often act like old friends, though. Prisoners are sent back home based on a future trade using their word as parole. Very strange, but cool.Stephen's review pretty much on the mark for me save for 2 things:1) Where the plot never engaged him, it did me. 2) Where he loved the prose which reminds him somewhat of Dickens, I don't care for it. I don't like Dickens' writing either, though. IMO, he was paid by the word & writes like it. Luckily, O'Brian isn't nearly as bad.Patrick O'Brian Wikipedia article. Audrey Martin series Wikipedia article. books:1 - Master and Commander (1969)2 - Post Captain (1972)3 - HMS Surprise (1973)4 - The Mauritius Command (1977)5 - Desolation Island (1978)6 - The Fortune of War (1979)7 - The Surgeon's Mate (1980)8 - The Ionian Mission (1981)9 - Treason's Harbour (1983)10 - The Far Side of the World (1984)11 - The Reverse of the Medal (1986)12 - The Letter of Marque (1988)13 - The Thirteen Gun Salute (1989)14 - The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)15 - Clarissa Oakes (1992) – (The Truelove in the USA)16 - The Wine-Dark Sea (1993)17 - The Commodore (1995)18 - The Yellow Admiral (1996)19 - The Hundred Days (1998)20 - Blue at the Mizzen (1999)21 - The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (2004) – (21 in the USA)

  • Hana
    2019-03-31 11:53

    I smile every time I read the first pages of Master and Commander knowing that hours, days of pure reading joy lie ahead.In the music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet is coming to a resolution. A Royal Navy lieutenant conducts from his audience seat. Beside him, a small dark man, also intent on the music whispers: 'If you really must beat the measure, sir, let me entreat you to do so in time and not half a beat ahead.'For a moment Jack felt the strongest inclination to snatch up his little gilt chair and beat the white-faced man down with it; but he gave way with a tolerable show of civility...He was profoundly dissatisfied with himself, and with the man in the black coat, and with the service. And with the velvet softness of the April night and the choir of nightingales in the orange-trees and the host of stars hanging so low as almost to touch the palms.Jack Aubrey gets happy news of a promotion and command of the brig Sophie, he and Dr. Stephen Maturin (the small dark man at the concert) offer each other handsome apologies and the two sail off for the first of 20 books that tell the story of a friendship that will outlast wars, competition in love, vast differences in personality and beliefs; but held together by deep mutual respect, humor, and a love of music.People who get bogged down with this book generally do so because of the incredibly complex, completely accurate descriptions of ship’s rigging, sails, maneuvers, how to fire a great gun, intricate battle scenes, etc. The only way for a landlubber to get through it is to go lightly through the more nautical sections letting go of the urge to understand everything instantly. Now on my fifth or sixth cruise with Jack and Stephen I am becoming a pragmatical sea dog and I glory in knowing all about the uses of cross catharpins. But some landlubbers never learn larboard from starboard and still enjoy the books. The other thing that confuses people is that they expect a standard plot. No. This is a voyage and the story of ninety souls all crowded together in a little wooden world in the middle of a war, sailing about the Mediterranean looking for trouble. Human interplay is the essence. As O’Brian himself explained the closed environment of a ship at sea, at sail, proceeding for months, perhaps for years has a magnifying hothouse effect upon human relations.At the novel's center there is Jack Aubrey, a professional seaman through and through. Jack has been at sea since the age of twelve. He has in fact spent more of his life afloat than ashore and is as comfortable in the high rigging as another man might be in his living room. The Sophie is his first command, but he already has strong views—a strict, ordered, regulated world is essential—literally a matter of life and death; so is training. Aubrey is convinced of the importance of accurate, rapid gunnery. The Sophie’s crew have far to go before they are more of a danger to the enemy than to themselves. Discipline and endless practice unite the crew so that they know what to do no matter what the weather, even in the heat and confusion of battle. Going into battle is what Jack loves the most. Jack was a big man at any time, but now he seemed to be at least twice his usual size; his eyes were shining in an extraordinary manner, as blue as the sea, and a continuous smile showed a gleam across the lively scarlet of his face...Stephen, looking at them curiously, saw the same extraordinary animation had seized upon James Dillon--indeed the whole crew was filled with a strange ebullience.Stephen Maturin is altogether different, but he’s given equal weight with Aubrey in this and later volumes—and that’s one of the reasons the series never goes stale. Maturin is brilliant, impatient, an obsessive naturalist, a gifted physician, a polyglot; yet when we first meet him Stephen is a broken man. Half Irish, half Catalan, Stephen was caught up in the cause of the United Irishmen who rose up against England in 1798, only to grow horrified at the carnage, the incompetence, the traitors and tale-bearers.I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind - it is my own truth alone - but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have - for what they are - are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.Stephen, as it turns out, knows one other member of the crew, the first lieutenant, James Dillon, an Irishman, a secret Catholic who has also been involved with the nationalist movement. But Dillon, as a British naval officer, must hide this background or face dismissal--or even treason charges. Dillon is a wonderful character, tormented, cursed with intense pride, rigid ideals and mixed loyalties; he is jealous of Jack Aubrey, doubts Jack’s courage and blows hot and cold in a way that deeply distresses his straightforward Captain.What I noticed most this time around was how very funny O’Brian can be, though his wit is often dry and sometimes so erudite that it take more than one read—or access to the internet to get the jokes.The Sophie’s first job is to escort a sluggish convoy of merchant ships from Minorca to Sardinia:Two bells in the morning watch found the Sophie sailing steadily eastward along the thirty-ninth parallel with the wind just abaft her beam; she was heeling no more than two strakes under her topgallantsails, and she could have set her royals, if the amorphous heap of merchantmen under her lee had not determined to travel very slowly until the full daylight, no doubt for fear of tripping over the lines of longitude.Then there are those wonderful moments when Stephen or Jack play off each other:A dark form drifted from the sombre cliff-face on the starboard beam – an enormous pointed wingspan: as ominous as fate. Stephen gave a swinish grunt, snatched the telescope from under Jack’s arm, elbowed him out of the way and squatted at the rail, resting his glass on it and focusing with great intensity.‘A bearded vulture! It is a bearded vulture!’ he cried.‘A young bearded vulture.’‘Well,’ said Jack instantly – not a second’s hesitation ‘I dare say he forgot to shave this morning.’Each time I read the twenty novels in Patrick OBrian’s epic I find new dimensions in them. Whether you read for character, adventure, history, magnificent description, new realms of erudition, humor--or just the pleasure of good story-telling you'll find delight in these books.Content Rating PG: Quite a bit of blasphemous and crude language; sexual references (including a passing reference to a situation involving a goat); lots of lost limbs and other battle gore. All of this gets toned down slightly in later books.

  • Ace
    2019-03-24 08:57

    This series has been on my To Be Read list for a few years. My interest in boats and sailing together with my love of historical fiction prompted me to finally start reading on the anniversary of my first year of living on a boat, travelling around the world. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, I try not to read blurbs and it had been a while since I had seen the hollywood movie Master and Commander and trust, as with most adaptions, it doesn't really give you an indication of what the book will read like. I found the writing style to my liking, but I had a hell of a time with the terminology. Not just the boating and navigation and weaponry, but also a little with ye old english.The story and characters are set up quite well, we get an overview of Jack Aubrey's career background and are introduced to two key other players, James Dillon and Stephen Maturin. I loved the growing antagonism between James and Jack and this created an element of mystery and anticipation of how things might end in book one. I'm not afraid of possible spoilers here, obviously Jack Aubrey has big story to be told, there are a number of books to follow, so I was patient with the setup of the dynamics between the crew. Stephen and James on the other hand seem to have an almost [plutonic] love at first sight. They commit to each other almost without thinking anything through and have a respectful and trusting relationship throughout the first book. With respect to the war strategies, naval components of the story, I will leave to be reviewed by those in the know, who can comment on the accuracy of the ships descriptions, the attack and defence strategies. I look forward to reading one a month until this series is finished. At least from the title of the series, I know that Jack and Stephen will be constants throughout.Notes on the Audiobook:When you read a book that everyman and his dog has already read and the whole world thinks is the ants pants in nautical storytelling, there's a certain expectation that you will 'get-it' once you start reading. Well, this was not the case for me, I had a lot of trouble with the language, terminology and pronunciations of the words. I found an audiobook version and this helped immensely, not just with the reading, but because the narrator was just fantastic and helped me to enjoy the book so much more.

  • Tiffany Reisz
    2019-04-17 04:50

    OMG I finally finished this fucking book. Clearly I'm not cut out for nautical fiction. I didn't understand 50% of it because of all the nautical terminology. But I did enjoy the seamen. HA! Seriously, the characters are great and it's very funny but sort of plotless. Glad I read it. Never read it again. Although kudos for realism. Goat sodomy was mentioned and Captain Jack Aubrey caught an STD. You won't see THAT in Pirates of the Caribbean 5, eh?

  • Cherie
    2019-04-19 04:52

    Oh My Goodness! I can't begin to put into words just how much I enjoyed listening to this story! It was unbelievably wonderful listening to Simon Vance bring O'Brian's characters to life. I am in complete awe at having just discovered this series and knowing there are eighteen more books still to be enjoyed.How wonderfully well written the characters are and how much I care about them already! I love the doctor and how he writes in his journal about Jack Aubrey and his shipmates. O'Brian makes life on board the ship come to life. The descriptions of the ship and how she handles in the wind and during the battles are so vivid. One almost hears the cannon balls whizzing by and the report of the cannons firing. This book was quite a long story, really. It tells how Aubrey and Maturin meet and how Stephen becomes the ship doctor. And it tells of the battles on board the Sophie as the British are fighting the French and Spanish. As Jack Aubrey said several times, "What fun!"

  • Joshua Rigsby
    2019-03-28 09:58

    The first book in a series that I adore.I've spent a long time trying to figure out the Aubrey / Maturin phenomenon. On the surface, O'Brian appears to make some rookie mistakes when it comes to historical nautical fiction. In places, when describing complex tacking maneuvers, the ways in which sails are set, or fleets wearing or attacking together, O'Brian gets fathoms deep into nautical jargon so that even Stephen Maturin, the well-appointed lubberly reader's surrogate, can't bail you out. A peril of which O'Brian seems at least nominally aware. "...Jack told them, in an uninhibited wealth of nautical jargon, exactly how each chase had behaved. They listened, silently with keen attention, nodding at certain points and partially closing their eyes, and Stephen observed that at some levels, complete communication between men was possible, after this both he and his attention wandered. "But, perhaps that's the charm. O'Brian's jargon, and especially his dialogue, is so briny and believable that it maybe doesn't matter what his characters are talking about. Also, the relationship between Aubrey and Maturin is so well-realized that I'd listen to them talk about anything. And then, there are frequent moments of sublimity in the description."It would have had to have been strangely dark for his feet to have missed this path. It wound up, crossing and recrossing the stream. Its steps kept open by the odd fisherman after crayfish, the impotent men going to bathe in the pool, and a few other travelers. And his hand reached out of itself for the branch that would help him over a deep place, a branch polished by many hands. Warm air sighing through the pines."O'Brian is unconcerned with plot. The only drivers in this book (and the series as a whole) are Aubrey's desire for promotion, and the maintenance of his relationship with Maturin. We sit preparing the ship for battle. We harass the enemy's trade. We flee from more powerful vessels. But the incoherence of the sequence of the events feel much more like a ship's log than a shaped and intentional narrative. This too, is strangely compelling, though it could easily become intolerable in a lesser author. All told, O'Brian is simply one of the best.

  • Algernon
    2019-04-05 11:45

    Second time lucky: in my first attempt, I put the book away after a chapter and a half, slightly daunted by maritime jargon and a little bored by the lack of action right from the start. I guess it also caught me in a bad spot, too tired to give the story a fair chance, because coming back to it years later, I couldn't put it down, immediately setting aside the other three books I had on. The technical terms are as eclectic and frequent as I remembered (the schematic of a square rigged ship included at the start helps a little) , but I believe the journey would lose a lot of its authenticity and appeal if it were dumbed down for easy consumption, whether it is about the difference between a sloop, a brig and a xebec, or a flying jib and mizzen staysail, or the Latin appelation of the birds Dr. Maturin is watching.The opening scene is hardly nautical, with a couple of young men listening to a baroque concerto (Locatelli) and taking an instant dislike to one another. Jack Aubrey: English, blond, tall and overweight, enthusiastic but insecure and quick to anger. Stephen Maturin: of Irish-Catalan descent, darker, shorter, caustic and in general more reserved and analytical. Soon though, the generosity and frankness of youth will assert itself and the duo will have a chance to make ammends, brought together by a a common cause: they are both stranded in Port Mahon and in financial difficulties, one by the lack of an assignment from the Lords of Admiralty, one from lack of patients. The fateful letter that starts what promises to become a beautiful friendship I have quoted in here, because it marks the moment I decided I love the series, the main characters and the ponderous, archaic form of officialdom: You are hereby required and directed to proceed on board theSophieand take upon you the Charge and Command of Commander of her; willing and requiring all the Officers and Company belonging to the said Sloop to behave themselves in their several Employments with all due Respect and Obedience to you their Commander; and you likewise to observe as well the General Printed Instructions as what Orders and Directions you may from time to time receive from any your superior Officer for His Majesty's Service. Hereof nor you nor any of you may fail as you will answer the contrary at your Peril.And for so doing this shall be your Order.Given on Board theFoudroyant at sea, 1st April, 1800 TheSophieis Jack's first command, and his elated reaction brought back to my memory two favorite short stories by Joseph Conrad :YouthandThe Secret Sharer. After a short confusing moment (Jack has only one epaulette, as apparently a Commander is not a Captain), it is immediately evident that the sea and the Navy represent Jacks whole ambition in life, his ultimate passion, taking precedence over his love for music, food and women. Also evident from the first moment he steps on the ship it is clear Jack is caught in a trap of his own choosing. As the embodyment of military authority, he is expected to behave with decorum and to keep his distance from the men under him, to maintain a cold blooded facade that is against his natural inclinations. Hence the need for a 'secret sharer', and the invitation he extends to Stephen, who as his intellectual peer will ease the loneliness of command. From the Doctor's journal: It is odd - will I say heart-breaking? - how cheerfulness goes: gaiety of mind, natural free-springing joy. Authority is its great enemy - the assumption of authority. I know few men over fifty that seem to me entirely human: virtually none who has long exercised authority. This initial enthusiasm carried me over the next chapters, who are frankly a bit too technical about the comissioning of the ship, the test runs, the gunnery practice and the boring convoy duty. From a small initial engagement with pirates, things heat up nicely for the rest of the book as Jack receives the mission to disrupt commercial traffic off the coast of Catalunia, and he attacks like a hungry wolf every ship in sight. Some of the exploits of our fresh Commander are a bit over the top, but he is still fallible, vulnerable, and I found the battles at sea a lot more credible and well argumented with tactics and troop movements than those of supersoldier Richard Sharpe for example (the other Napoleonic War epic I'm currently reading). A lot of attention is given to secondary characters aboard ship, from the First Lieutenant to the last able mariner as we follow the forging together of a well oiled machine. The oil in this case is mostly prize money from captured ships and a LOT of booze, but the pride in their own prowess and the devotion that Jack inspires in the crew plays a significant part, too.Speaking of motivations, it bothered me somewhat that Jack is very much an exponent of British Imperialism with few scruples about using every dirty trick in the book and with about zero empathy for his victims. It is left to Dr. Maturin the provide some balance and some dialectic debates on political and human implications of the war. He tries to explain to Jack that he probably shouldn't brag so much about his privateering, as from the Spaniards point of view he is a pirate, 'a false harsh brutal murdering villain, an odious man': - Identity? said Jack, comfortably pouring out more coffee, Is not identity something you are born with? - The identity I am thinking of is something that hovers between a man and the rest of the world: a mid-point between his view of himself and theirs of him - for each of course affects the other continually. A reciprocal fluxion, sir. Stephen Maturin has some reasons for his more nuanced approach. Despite his youth, he had been involved with a failed revolution in Ireland, betrayed by his own countrymen, prompting him to dedicate his life to naturalistic studies and to exclaim at one point : I speak only for myself, mind - it is my own truth alone - but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have - for what they are - are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone. The first volume ends with a large battle between capital ships near Gibraltar, which Aubrey and Maturin witness from afar, another good touch from the author where he doesn't insist at placing his chosen hero in every major historical event of the period. There's also a very interesting debate about the fine line between recklesness and courage, between putting the lives of men in needless danger versus failing to uphold the honour of the Fleet (an officer can be court martialed if he runs away from the enemy).Between the battles and the philosophy, there is still place in the novel for a bit of humour, a touch of romance and the poetry of the sea, fordays when the perfection of dawn was so great, the emptiness so entire, that men were almost afraid to speak.I've turned the last page, and right now 19 more books of the same look less like hard work and more like a highly anticipated adventure.

  • Joe O'Loughlin
    2019-03-26 05:03

    "Never mind maneuvers - go straight at 'em!" This describes the main character's temperament perfectly. But when combined with his alter-ego's more calculating nature, the POV is entirely human and utterly compelling in it's contradictions, flaws and dramatic leverage.This book had everything in it that I love in great books. The sentence structure and wordplay were so dexterous and pleasing that I chuckled at its art and cleverness. I learned later that Mr. "O'Brian" (his nom de plume, a fact revealed after his death) was a big fan of Jane Austen, so I read "Pride and Prejudice" and immediately saw this most unlikely and remarkable connection between two authors of different gender, subject matter and time periods.I loved the simplicity and propulsive "though line" of the plot.I especially loved the characters, not just the incredibly real Captain Jack Aubrey and his "particular friend" Dr. Stephen Maturin, but also every single background character that seemed so well-formed and unforgettable, even years after I read it the first time.I loved the thrilling action sequences: danger at sea; wartime strategy and tactics; bloody fights; bravery; patriotism; boys growing into men; and the heavy weight of leadership. I loved the book's emphasis on the importance of optimism, spontanaeity and self-confidence in a fight, tempered by the valuable qualities ("shining parts") of a most loyal and trustworthy friend: strategy, scrupulousness, discretion and even a singular bloody-mindedness when needed.I also loved the dialog that seemed so true to its time, although the author wrote it hundreds of years after that refined, courteous, remarkably expressive manner of speech evaporated into the shadows of time.And of course, I loved the thrilling sense of adventure that made me lose track of my surroundings and instantly whisked me away to these characters' world whenever I opened the book.It is one of the best books I ever read, and I've read it three times so far. All 23 of Mr. O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series are great reads, but I would start with this one if you want to get hooked.

  • Madeline
    2019-03-29 05:41

    I'll be totally honest here: I read this book because I saw the movie version first. There were other reasons, of course - this book (and the entire series) is generally well-reviewed, and my dad is a huge fan of the series. But mostly I picked this up because I freaking love the movie and wanted to see how the book matched up. Very well, it turns out. Although some good parts from the movie are missing here (like that adorable kid who gets his arm amputated), I didn't mind - Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is based off two O'Brian books, after all, so I was only getting about half of the story presented in the movie.This is just a good, fun seafaring yarn, with guns and explody things and general Manly Adventures (and unlike the movie, there are female characters with names and spoken lines, amazing. O'Brian has a great preface where he assures us that all of the battles described (and there are plenty) are completely possible, and based on actual historical accounts, which is pretty cool - especially considering the battles. The book is chock-full of sailor shop-talk, but the nice thing was that I could still get a sense of what was going on, even if I couldn't tell a mizzen staysail from a jib or understand what exactly everyone was talking about.But the best part, and something I'm glad survived into the movie version, is the glorious bromance between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Their meet-cute in the first chapter is worthy of a romantic comedy: Maturin snaps at Aubrey for beating incorrect time along with the music at a concert, Aubrey challenges him, and then when they run into each other the next day Aubrey apologizes and they have dinner together. It only gets better from there - they argue, discuss politics and language, and (literally) make beautiful music together. Maturin frequently tells Aubrey that he should lose some weight, and Aubrey has to remind Maturin to put on his silk stockings before they go out. They were perfectly delightful together, and their rapport is the reason I'll seek out the next book in the series.

  • Moloch
    2019-04-07 10:36

    Mamma mia quanto mi è piaciuto! Io che non amo le serie lunghe mi sono incastrata da sola con questa che conta ben 20 libri Che Adesso. Devo. Leggere. TUTTI. A partire da SUBITO.E neanche è uno di quei libri dalla trama talmente scoppiettante che non riesci a metterlo giù per la voglia di sapere che succede. Il ritmo è infatti abbastanza lento e tranquillo, siamo nel pieno delle guerre napoleoniche (anno 1800) e a Jack Aubrey, ufficiale della Royal Navy di stanza a Minorca, viene offerta - finalmente! - l'occasione della vita, il comando di una corvetta, la "Sophie", impegnata in missioni tutto sommato di poco momento (scortare qualche nave mercantile, fare azioni di disturbo). Nell'equipaggio recluta anche il medico Stephen Maturin, naturalmente di carattere a lui quasi opposto (Jack energico, vitale, "caciarone", non eccessivamente colto a parte la passione per la musica, Stephen tranquillo, razionale, sarcastico, con la passione per le ricerche zoologiche), ma col quale si instaura molto presto una bellissima amicizia. E la storia è questa, tra missioni riuscite più o meno bene, vita di mare, procedure, cerimoniali e intoppi descritti con una cura e una precisione che denotano un lavoro di ricerca storica da parte dell'autore veramente encomiabile. La forza infatti sta, per lo meno in questo primo libro, nella caratterizzazione veramente splendida dei personaggi umanissimi (la coppia protagonista, ma anche tutti i secondari), nella varietà delle situazioni (non mancano comunque scene più avventurose ed emozionanti di battaglie), nel tono lieve e spiritoso ma profondo, nella finezza dei dettagli (l'unica pecca è che O'Brian per esprimere i pensieri dei personaggi li fa spesso "parlare tra sé e sé", cosa che a me sembra sempre un po' artificiosa e innaturale, nonché una tecnica narrativa poco raffinata... come mi insegna James Wood in Come funzionano i romanzi! ;-)). Non a caso questa è una serie famosissima e amatissima.Gran parte del libro poi è scritta in un linguaggio incomprensibile, tanto è fitto di termini marinareschi... ma che importa!!! Tutto il resto è talmente bello che si può tranquillamente far finta di nulla se non si ha la minima idea di cosa voglia dire orzare, trinchetto, boma, coltellaccino, impavesata, testa di moro, e via con altri 700 termini (alla fine ho scoperto che in fondo all'ebook c'era un glossario... ma cambiava poco, non è che ogni 2 righe potessi interrompere la lettura per consultarlo)Unica nota triste: (view spoiler)[ho perso la testa per un personaggio un sacco affascinante, col passato misterioso e interessante, e già stavo fantasticando su come poteva evolvere in 20 libri il suo rapporto complesso e spinoso col protagonista... e quello naturalmente muore nel primo libro............ :-((((( Ho visto su Internet che forse ci dovrò fare l'abitudine, sembra che O'Brian non abbia nessuna paura a uccidere i suoi personaggi (hide spoiler)]. Mi sono messa a cercare un po' di slash fiction, e a me in genere non importa nulla delle fanfiction, pensate un po' quanto mi ha presa questo libro!

  • Heather
    2019-04-03 03:52

    I think Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are two of the greatest characters ever. And part of what makes them so great is that POB wasn't afraid to let them be complex and awkward and sad. He wasn't afraid, either, to let them be products of their time. Too often, writers of historical fiction feel like they need to make their characters some kind of historical prodigy -- the 18thC doctor who has discovered that if he feeds his patients this special mold, they'll get better. That sort of thing. But no. Stephen bleeds and saws and recommends all sorts of ridiculous cures. The first thing we learn of him is that he has lost a patient.I think the best part, though, is how funny these books are. When I first picked them up, I figured anything with that many sails and bits of rigging on the cover was going to be hopelessly chest-thumping and earnest and manly. The covers are lovely, but they do the books a diservice. They are not earnest and manly; they are complex and poignant and really, really funny.

  •  amapola
    2019-04-05 05:52

    Ai confini del mareNon so perché - io che sono cresciuta a pane, Salgari e Isole del tesoro – non avessi ancora letto un libro di O’Brian. In questo romanzo c’è tutto quello che si può chiedere a un buon libro: narrazione coinvolgente (grandi velieri, arrembaggi, avventura), sontuosa ricostruzione storica (in questo caso del periodo napoleonico), perfetta caratterizzazione dei personaggi… insomma, per chi ama il genere una vera e propria goduria. Unica pecca (forse) sono i tanti termini marinareschi che rallentano il ritmo di lettura rendendo necessario consultare il glossario a fine libro, ma che non ne pregiudicano la piacevolezza.“Primo comando” è il primo capitolo di una lunga serie (più di venti libri) che ha come protagonisti il capitano Jack Aubrey e il dottor Stephen Maturin, e adesso che i due sono finalmente entrati nella mia libreria so che non ne usciranno più.Peter Weir ne ha tratto un bel film: sonora:

  • Eric_W
    2019-04-20 06:44

    In Master and Commander, the first of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, Jack gets his first command. It's the Sophie, a seventy-eight-foot sloop with a crew of more than eighty. It's a wonder where they stuck them all. It's also the beginning of the friendship between Jack and Stephen Maturin, who becomes the ship's surgeon. They don't get off on the right foot, however, as Maturin castigatesJack for tapping his hand out of rhythm during a chamber concert. Rather than come to blows, they discover they have several things in common, a love of music being the foremost.Jack's first responsibility is to convoy a group of his Majesty's merchant ships, so they put to sea after first trying out some cannon in the bow that threaten to drive the ship's carpenter into severe apoplexy when he sees how the shock from the guns threatens to pull apart the little ship's seams. The most startling revelation to the modern reader is the number of offenses for which a seaman, or officer, could be put to death. Every first Sunday, the Captain was required to read the Articles of War, which delineated all these heinous crimes such as threatening an officer, or failing to proceed against the enemy with adequate haste, or any one of a number of miscellaneous other offenses, each of which would result in the death penalty.This volume should be read first, for O'Brian clearly explains the nomenclature and functions of each part of a working eighteenth-century sailing vessel. The entire ship is explained, from bowsprit to spanker, and a description of the crews living quarters is given. Patrick O'Brian wrote in the introduction to Nelson's Navy: "...One’s pleasure in a sailor's account of his voyage is so very much enhanced if one can follow the more technical passages. This is even more true where the navy of Nelson's day is concerned, for by the time of Trafalgar the sailing man-of-war ... had reached its apogee, an immensely complex machine requiring extraordinary skill to handle and, of course, a copious vocabulary to speak of its parts and function." O'Brian knows his vocabulary.Living quarters were cramped. Each sailor had only a hammock, which he stung in the fourteen inches of space assigned to him. When Maturin exclaims how surely that space is not enough for a man to sleep in, he is reminded that actually the amount of room is double that for about half the crew is on watch at any given time, providing double the space. Stephen soon discovers much to his consternation, that Sophie's first lieutenant, is one James Dillon. He and Dillon are members of the United Irishmen, an organization of Protestants and Catholics trying to unite Ireland and responsible for a recently thwarted rebellion. One never knows how its former members might react to being in close quarters with others, especially as internal strife and numerous betrayals of former friends and comrades had rived the society. Jack's intolerance is revealed as he admits to Maturin his hatred of the dreaded Papists Unfortunately, he creates a potentially difficult situationby making derogatory comments about Catholics to the crew before discovering Dillon and many of the men are Catholic, and he did so mean to get off to a good start with at least his first lieutenant! A recurrent theme of the Aubrey/Maturin series is the meaning of friendship, and that theme is certainly developed in Master and Commander. Maturin and Dillon have a chance to explain their feelings about the Irish republican movement after they are removed to a prize ship that must be sailed into port, Dillon to command and Maturin to help deliver a baby born to the French captain's wife. Maturin explains, and perhaps we can also assume this is O'Brian speaking, that the bloody results of the French Revolution have soured him to groups of any kind. "'I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium... - but man as part of a movement or a crowd is ... inhuman... the only feelings I have are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.... Patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile."'O'Brian's characters are human, with all that implies. They make mistakes, act stupidly on occasion, suffer from greed and ill temper. So many modern action stories have superhuman heroes who suffer only from occasional bouts of pseudo-remorse for their actions, explained in nauseating psychobabble,never suffering from anything remotely resembling a crisis of conscience. Sign of our times perhaps.O'Brian also his a good deal of fun at the expense of the eighteenth-century stuffed-shirt upper class. Consider the following scene at a rather hoity-toity, mixed company dinner party: "Mr. Ellis was clearly very much at home in Captain Harte's house, for without having to ask the way he walked to the sideboard, opened the lead-lined door and took out the chamber-pot, and looking over his shoulder he went on without a pause to state that fortunately the lower classes naturally looked up to gentlemen and loved them, in their humble way' only gentlemen were fit to be officers. God had ordered it so, he said, buttoning the flap of his breeches ' and he as he sat down again at the table he observed that he knew one house where the article was silver - solid silver."

  • Sherwood Smith
    2019-04-11 09:51

    The first time I read it, I sat down in my reading chair, curious, disengaged, the warm summer air wafting through my open window the distant cries of children running on the grass. Another rereading, during the bleakness of a winter day, the sweet spice of cinnamon-laced hot chocolate at my side; a third image, just a flash, splashing across the deep green lawns of Mount Vernon, the book tucked firmly under my arm to protect it, at least, as I cannot protect my clothing, for I had no idea that a storm was coming. I took the book along in case I had to wait in line to see Washington’s home, and indeed, while standing in line, read in snatches.When I first read Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander I had no expectations, few images beyond brief flickers of remembered Hornblower and Smollett’s Roderick Random.Now when I commence a reread I am equipped with images from both the Hornblower and the Master and Commander film; I have located and listened to Locatelli’s C major quartet so I can hear its strains, I have at hand a map of Port Mahon, and it is easy enough to recollect the briny smell of the sea.I open the book. The memories dissolve into image.The music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet. . . I know what is going to happen. So I read the opening chapter to discover the progress of my addiction.There are no neutral moments in that first chapter; Jack is at first delighted with the music, embarrassed at the studied animosity of the little pale man in the next chair, then angered by the elbow in the ribs when he starts “Pom pom pomming” to the music, conducting with his fist in the air.Molly Harte is watching him covertly,and realizes Jack is not happy.Jack returns to his lodging, contemplating whether or not he has to fight a duel with that pale little man—and there is the letter that changes his life.The narrator reaches outward with such skill that I was not aware of the omni POV at first. I am just happy to touch everyone’s thoughts, to look at the world of 1801 through their eyes. How different they all are! From James Dillon with his strictly concealed secrets, as he gets ready to report to his new captain, to Jack, high up on the masthead of his first command, watching the new sunlight touch the tips of the masts, come down over the sails until it reaches the desk, while he sits there weeping silently.Jack and Stephen complement so well, each masterly where the other is ignorant. Stephen’s “downstairs” when referring to going below is the more humorous because of his subtlety when at last he has private converse with James, and they retrace what happened since their last meeting, touching on the disaster of the ’98 uprising—and the emotional toll. Jack’s “flings at the Pope” are buffoonish after that, a fine contrast to his skill at command.Each character is so memorable, even those briefly seen. Did Joselito survive when the French retook Mahon? Did the young lieutenant who looked so longingly at Jack’s new epaulette get his promotion?In this book, the most complex character besides Jack and Stephen is James Dillon. He could have driven an entire novel on his own. This book is so much more than a sea-going adventure.Discussions of identity, of music, Stephen’s expressed need to spend a quiet night on land amid the noises and scents of his childhood to recruit himself, all moments of felicity amid the ongoing action The latter scene can also be construed as a hint of Stephen’s secret vocation, though there is no reference—but then a spy must be secret, says the reader who seeks consistency in what might not have been meant, at first, as a roman fleuve, but turns into one.Before the battle with the Cacafuego, when everyone is at their most unhappy, Jack reams the midshipmen, exhorting them not to neglect to write home. Babbington, trying to eke out his letter, makes himself homesick by asking about every person, pet, and place in his village, calling to mind this passage from Jane Austen’s Persuasion:He [Dick Musgrove] had been several years at sea, and had, in the course of those removals to which all midshipment are liable, and especially such midshipment as every captain wishes to get rid of, been six months on board Captain Frederick Wentworth’s frigate, the Laconia; and from the Laconia he had, under the influence of his captain, written the only two letters which his father and mother had ever received from him during the whole of his absence; that is to say, the only two disinterested letters; all the rest had been mere applications for money.A land person reading Jane Austen’s references to the Navy might speed past them, dismissing them as a bit of period color. I discovered that rereading these passages after one has read O’Brian imbues Austen’s novels with a new layer of meaning. Babbington’s experience makes midshipmen real. So the comic moment when we realize “Dear Richard” was nothing but a rowdy and annoying Dick Musgrove shipped off to keep him out of trouble, gives us a glimpse of the boy’s life and death; Wentworth’s bald accounting of the Asp’s brush with a French privateer evokes Aubrey and his crew fighting madly for possession of a prize, the scuttles running with blood—and then forbearing to write any details home lest they upset their wives and families. And teenage boys there to be shot at along with the men.The Cacafuego sequence is as tight and vivid as I remembered, and all the more remarkable because it does not end with protracted victory gloating, but with grief first, intense and vivid grief, visceral reminders of the terrible cost of such an encounter, no matter who wins.Like a minor key transition to major in an old folk song Jack is finally permitted his glory, but then he’s removed off-stage, and we see the reflected glory in the extremely funny conversation his young clerk, David Richards, has with his family:As everyone knows, the captain’s clerk’s position is the most dangerous there is in a man-of-war: he is up there all the time on the quarter-deck with his slate and his watch, to take remarks, next to the captain, and all the small-arms and a good many of the great guns concentrate their fire on him. Still, there he must stay, supporting the captain with his countenance and his advice . . .After Davy tells them how he advised Aubrey how to attack, he adds with mendacious brag, I very nearly said to him, ‘I tell you what, Goldilocks’—for we call him Goldilocks in the service, you know, in much the same way they call me Hellfire Davy, or Thundering Richards—‘just you rate me midshipman aboard the Cacafuego’…for I feel I have the genius of command…It’s a very funny scene, but with a frisson of the real. How many times have we heard people talk after an intense experience, re-inventing it consciously or unconsciously with themselves as the heroes of it? And much as we might laugh at Davy’s brag, we reflect that this kid really was on deck under fire, even if he wasn’t exactly telling Jack how to fight.Unusual structure, fascinating shifts in tone, vivid detail given to every character no matter how briefly seen, afford a glimpse of the greatness to come; there’s a strong correlation between these books and readers of SF and F that I don’t think is an accident