I just finished HMS Surprise and I’m jittery with antipication for the next couple of books to arrive. The action against Linois with the Indiamen was absolutely gripping and I am happy to report that all the nautical jargon is becoming increasingly easy to digest despite my lubberly nature.
Some memorable moments from HMS Surprise:
-How Jack manages to finally win the sloth’s heart with grog.
-The final chapter when Stephen gets rejected yet again was heartbreaking (although I know they get married at some point thanks to spoilers).
-Mr. White expressing his admiration for Stephen Maturin’s knowledge of Naval warfare.
-The action against Linois (of course).
-Stephen getting stranded on that rock and being burnt to a crisp.
I’m really starting to love these books and I thought SDMB would be prodigious place to find others that share (and probably exceed) my enthusiasm.
Oh there is so much to talk about in these books! I must admit I started reading the Hornblower books first and after reading them, I found master and Commander hard going. But now the series is without a doubt my favourite set of books, on this or any other planet.
I have also read each book a number of times but have my favourites within the set (I’m in the Merchant navy, so the books go on many a voyage with me too)
I’ve only just finished reading the first two books in the series for the first time (I got the first 8 at a book sale a couple of weeks ago). I’m enjoying them very much so far. The relationship between captain and doctor is the best part as far as I’m concerned: their conversations, their Odd Couple housekeeping, their music. Stephen Maturin’s abstracted nerdy scientist’s behavior has made me laugh out loud more than once; when he arrived aboard Jack’s most recent command, wearing a sort of woolen turtleneck bodysuit, carrying a narwhale horn and bringing a hive full of bees, I was reduced to tears.
I waded through the entire series a few months ago. I could not put these books down. At lunchtime one day, I literally drove to the book store and sat in the parking lot while I finished off the last few pages, ran in and bought the next book, and then when back to the parking lot to read before returning to work. My wife was very glad when I finished the last one.
I read one per year, while on vacation – I’m up to Fortune of War (that’s the one where Aubrey is a POW in Boston, right?), and I’m enjoying them more and more. Although I think I’ll pick up one of the companion books, to aid with vocabulary & nautical stuff.
The humour is so dry that I often have to back up & re-read…“oh, I get it. A joke. Har.”
But the punctuation & typesetting is bizarre. O’Brian will change scenes without so much as a double-space between paragraphs (or without so much as kiss-my-hand, as Jack would say).
I’ve just finished reading HMS Surprise, so I know all about the debauching of the sloth now.
However, I was somewhat concerned to notice that the sloth disappeared from the story immediately after this episode. What happened to the poor thing? Did it make its way ashore to hang out in various portside pubs, begging for drinks? Did it spend the rest of its life hanging drunkenly from ships’ rigging and perhaps trees in English gardens once Jack and Stephen returned home? I hope very much that Stephen didn’t dissect it (that giant tortoise he made friends with later on in the story too).
I recently finished my second read-through of the entire series. My favorite single volume is Far Side of the World, which tells of the ill-fated Mr. Hollom in the south Pacific.
Yes, the relationship between Jack and Stephen is the heart and engine of the books. Their conversations make me laugh helplessly, yet I can’t describe to people who haven’t read O’Brian just what’s so funny. Here’s a favorite bit (paraphrased from memory):
Jack: “I have nothing to say to ice. Ever since the horrid old Leopard, I will never come near it again.”
Stephen: “My dear, how a bit of well-judged caution becomes you.”
I love it when Jack tries so hard to make a pun, mangles it, and still laughs as though he said something hysterical. I like when he accidentally makes disparaging remarks about the Irish or Catholics, becomes crestfallen for Stephen’s sake, and is “brought by the lee again.” I love Stephen thinking he’s “an old sea-dog”, yet he can’t figure out simple things like tides, phases of the moon, basic rigging or “the weather gauge”. He also can’t get in or out of a ship to save his life, but he won’t use a bishop’s chair. I also love Preserved Killick, his shrewishness and snoopiness.
I’m so sad when the series comes to an end. I like
the new woman in Stephen’s life, because Diane was just plain mean to Stephen on occasion. Diane sounded like she was based on Elizabeth Taylor – more bitchy than lovable. I would have liked to see if Stephen succeeded in his suit with the new lady.
I love the series as well. I loaned Master and Commander to a friend who gave it back having choked on the jargon (the wimp). I started re-reading it for the umpteenth time as I was going home, and soon blew through the first three before jumping back to some library books I had to get through before the fines piled up. I expect that yet another reread of 4-20 will soon follow (like I needed another time sink in my life).
I love the story arc of the whole series, starting with Jack getting his first ship and ending (accidentially on account of O’Brian’s death, but fittingly enough) with Blue at the Mizzen. Through it all, Jack and Stephen are beset with professional, financial, emotional, personal and literal shipwrecks which are almost more interesting their military and other victories.
I love these books. I started reading them back in the early 90’s, while O’Brian was still alive, and before the series was completed. I was so excited when each next book came out. And it was really, really sad when Patrick O’Brian died, knowing there would be no more Stephen and Jack stories. I felt like I had lost friends.
Jack Aubrey remains one of my all-time favorite literary characters.
I was turned on to the Aubrey/Maturin series after an eariler thread here, and I’ve worked my way up to Master and Commander (I got it used for 89 cents plus shipping; thank goodness for Amazon). One of the things I love about the books is the graceful style of O’Briens’s writing, especially with its archaic expressions, much like drinking an old favorite wine.
Another author I liked for the same reason – although not the same style – was Ellis Peters with her Brother Cadfael novels.
Damn you people! I was on book 16 or so when I moved to Austin last year, and still can’t find my set of Aubrey/Maturin books. They’re probably in a box buried in my parents’ garage. But reading this thread has awakened fond memories of O’Brian’s edifying prose, and I’m going to be miserable at home this weekend with only lesser authors to assauge my literary cravings. :mad:
Thank you for finding this! I am much relieved to hear that the sloth was not dissected, or fell overboard, or otherwise suffered an unhappy fate (but rather spent the rest of his days rather like Sebastian Flyte toward the end of Brideshead Revisited.)
I’ve managed to accumulate the entire series over the years, and have read and reread it several times. Easily my favorite series of books. O’Brian’s style of grammar seems strange at first, but you get used to it after a while, and it becomes more “Americanized” as the series progresses (I think the editors for the American distributors “cleaned them up” or “translated” them for American consumption).
After seeing the movie The Commitments, I became sorta interested in Roddy Doyle’s works, and happened across one of his books in a book store, and briefly browsed through it; he had much the same grammar style as O’Brian, and I initially found it off-putting.
Hmmm… it may be time for me to once again attempt to delve into the goings on of the family Rabbit.
I was frankly amazed that Russel Crowe managed to pull off Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. And my only complaint about Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin is that he was too tall, and too “healthy looking” to be a proper Stephen Maturin.