Patrick O'Brian


Master and Commander (1970), Post Captain (1972), HMS Surprise (1973), The Mauritius Command (1977), Desolation Island (1978), The Fortune of War (1979), The Surgeon's Mate (1980), The Ionian Mission (1981), Treason's Harbour (1983), The Far Side of the World (1984), The Reverse of the Medal (1986), The Letter of Marque (1988), The Thirteen Gun Salute (1989), The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991), Clarissa Oakes / The Truelove (1992), The Wine-Dark Sea (1993), The Commodore (1995), The Yellow Admiral (1996), The Hundred Days (1998), Blue at the Mizzen (1999), The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (2004)


Master and Commander (1970)

Master and CommanderThis book ended up taking me several months to read. I started it sometime during the winter, would read a couple of pages or chapters, then I'd pick up another book and forget about this one for awhile.

That doesn't mean I didn't like it. I did.

However, it's not an easy book to read. The writing and language are dense--lots of technical details about sailing and ships, all of which I am unfamiliar with. Additionally, the writing is British, with British spellings and punctuation, which also threw me off a bit. So I'd pick it up and put it back down and pick it back up again. Which probably didn't help my comprehension of the story any either.

For those who never saw the movie for the general idea, Master and Commander tells of Jack Aubrey, captain of the Sophie, and Stephen Maturin, his friend and the doctor of the Sophie. (The movie, however, is based on a later book, although at least one incident in the movie was from this book.)

What I'd really like to know, is how accurate these books are. Could ships like the Sophie really capture so many other ships? Other parts seemed reasonable, but I really have no idea about how many enemy ships a British ship of the line could capture on a tour of duty. Was Naval medicine really that bad, that a competent doctor was so unusual? That idea more than anything else both surprises and frightens me.

Of course the best part of the book is the developing relationship between Jack and Stephen--though I have to admit that I like Stephen better. Stephen worries more, while Jack seems far too wrapped up in himself to notice what else is happening around him--although this isn't the case entirely.

I was confused about what--exactly--happened between Jack and James Dillon. Perhaps it's the history of the Irish rebellion. Perhaps it was a personality conflict. Perhaps it was some man thing that I missed completely. But I found the situation frustrating.

I've started the second book. I figure some time around Christmas--if I'm lucky--I'll finish it.
Rating: 6/10