Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian: A review

Various members of my family are big fans of this series and for years I've heard them rave about how wonderful it is. At length, I decided to find out for myself and I put O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin books on my reading list. I'm happy to have now finished with the first one.

O'Brian's style of writing seems very much of the period about which he writes, which is to say the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries. In fact, his writing reminded me of perhaps the most famous English writer of that period, Jane Austen, in its language and turn of phrase.

Of course, O'Brian was writing of naval history, not Austen's country manners and manors, but still the similarities are there.

What true O'Brian fanatics love about his writing is all that nautical stuff - the descriptions of the ships, all their riggings and their personnel and the intricate detailing of the battles at sea. Frankly, my eyes glazed over a bit at much of that terminology and I tended to skim over those parts. What really fascinated me was the relationships of the men who went to sea and particularly the relationship between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.

Aubrey is Captain Jack Aubrey, R.N., "Lucky Jack." Maturin is his ship's doctor, a man of boundless interest in and enthusiasm for the natural world. Wherever he is and whatever else he is doing, Maturin is always making observations of the world around him, particularly the birds. He is a man after my own heart.

The descriptions of the interactions and relationships between all these men living in very close quarters with one another seem quite realistic to me. I think O'Brian took great care to make them so.

So, one book down and only twenty or so more to go. I've got my reading work cut out for me. At least now in family discussions of the personalities of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, I'll be able to join in.

2 comments:

  1. Welcome to the series. I am sure you will enjoy the other 20 just as much.

    I have been slowly mapping the series over the last 6 years (up to the ninth book, Treason's Harbour), so you might find that interesting as you make your way through the books:

    http://cannonade.net/

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