Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Reading Assignment: Sailing Adventures

The time has come to introduce you to the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian.  Some of you are probably familiar with these books--I know they've been mentioned in the comments. They're really superb.  Right now I'm reading Fortune of War, one of the later books in the series, and it is fantastic, but you don't get to enjoy it yet because this is one series you need to read in order.

Master and Commander is the first book in the series, and it's been so long since I read it, I can't remember too many details about the plot, but essentially, young Jack Aubrey of the British navy is promoted from lieutenant to commander and meets Stephen Maturin, a surgeon and naturalist who becomes ship's surgeon.  This is the beginning of a beautifully portrayed friendship and the best series of nautical fiction ever.  Better than Horatio Hornblower, in my opinion.

A snippet on the back cover from a review published in Time:

If Jane Austen had written rousing sea yarns, she would have produced something very close to the prose of Patrick O'Brian.

That pretty much sums it up.  These books have something for everyone and appeal equally to both sexes and to fans of adventurous, plot driven stories as well as those who like something a little more intellectual. I admire a writer who can produce natural sounding, clever dialogue, and Patrick O'Brian is a master of this.  You really need to read the whole series--I am still working on it--and see how the friendship and characters evolve.  In the second book, Jack and Stephen are both in love with the same woman and their friendship nearly ends.  It also turns out that Stephen is a spy--he's captured and tortured by the French in one book.  In Fortune of War, the book I'm reading now, the war of 1812 has broken out and Jack and Stephen are prisoners of war in Boston, where the French are determined to capture Stephen again and do unspeakable things to him.  Meanwhile, the woman they both loved has turned up as well.  And so it goes, each novel a development of the ones that came before it.

Master and Commander was made into a movie, with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany as Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin.  I enjoyed it enough to see it twice.

Do you know these books? What do you think? If you've seen the movie I'd love to hear your opinion of that too.


  1. I saw the movie and liked it. Now I will have to go back and read all the books and then watch the movie again. I'll get back to you that.

  2. I remember seeing these when I worked at a bookstore--I've never read them. But the description involving Jane Austen makes me curious.

  3. Random row books had about eight books of the series for sale at 3 dollars each, so I've just read 14, "The Nutmeg of consolation"...Amazingly great until they travel over land in Australia, where the misery of life at that time makes the end of the book depressing.

  4. I saw Master & Commander (and I think I enjoyed it) but didn't read the book. ::shame:: The comparison to Jane Austen is selling it, though.

  5. I really enjoyed the movie. I saw it in the theater and we own it on dvd so I've seen it a few times. I hadn't realized it was based on a book. The series sounds intriguing.

  6. The books are amazing. I've been a fan of them since I discovered them in the 90s.
    However I did some research a few ears ago, and found that the author's credentials are a little flawed. I won't give details at the moment, because it doesn't effect the maginificent characterisation and almost-perfect feeling for the time period that O'Brian creates.

    The quality of plotting and writing does vary a little between the books, but there is never a bad or boring read.

    Well done for picking this one Jen.

    Actually, one of my favourite Science Fiction authors named a hyperlight picket boat "Aubrey & Maturin" in their honour.

  7. My husband and I sail, so we do know of these books! Hubby is the one who reads them, and enjoys them very much. Recently, though, he discovered another series of maritime novels by Dewey Lambdin, set in the late 1700's; the first book is set at the time of the American revolution. He might like this series even better than the O'Brian books.

    All thumbs up for the movie in this household, it's one of the view where we purchased the DVD.

    I'm sorry to read in later posts of your child's illness and all of the problems that have spun out from that difficult circumstance. I hope your child is on the mend, and home soon.