Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin Novels

Discussion in 'Literary Fiction' started by Extollager, Nov 18, 2016.

  1. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    There was a sputter of discussion on O'Brian and these books at Chrons --

    Patrick O'Brian

    It seems appropriate to have a place here for the discussion of these books.

    I'm reading my fourth of them, The Fortune of War -- I haven't been trying to read them in sequence. This attracted me as one dealing with the War of 1812, which I read about recently in early pages of Paul Johnson's very readable The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830.

    For those who have read several of the Aubrey - Maturin books: What's your favorite? Is there any book in the series that disappointed you?
     
  2. 2DaveWixon

    2DaveWixon Hoka-slayer

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    Not really fair to ask me those questions when I haven't read any of them (save one) in the last 20 years. But that one -- H.M.S. Surprise -- is my favorite, certainly. Master and Commander is very good, too.
    In fact, I first read it (Surprise), oh, perhaps 30 years ago, before I knew there were others in the series. And I think I've re-read it three times, since then.
    I can't really name a least favorite, at this point -- not off the top of my head, anyway; but if there is one, it's likely one of the later ones...I say that because it seemed to me that the series was petering out as it went along; and in fact, I don't think I ever got around to reading the last two or three...

    That said, I strongly recommend that if you are to read them at all, you should try to do so in their chronological order -- similar to the Hornblower books, that gives you perspective as the chronology moves along.

    (I will add, and take it as you will, that Gordy Dickson loved this series. He was always looking for good fiction that fit within certain criteria, and I spent a lot of time trying to find things he would like (that included much more than sea stories)... At one point, knowing that he had loved Hornblower and other sea warfare stories, I remembered having read H.M.S. Surprise, and I lent him my copy. He loved it, and he was the one who found out that there were more. They were not then very available in the U.S., but there came a time when the Dorsai Thing was held in Toronto; I put him on the plane and then drove -- a good thing, because I spent a lot of time in Canadian bookstores, and I drove home with about 80 paperbacks (all UK publications not easily found in the US) in my trunk -- including some O'Brien.)(When O'Brien began to be popular in the U.S. we were able to get them in hardcover editions, which GRD insisted on having because he loved them so much.)

    (My trunk full of paperbacks really bemused U.S. Customs when I crossed back into the States on my way home...I had the books in two large black plastic garbage bags, and I think that when the agent opened the trunk and saw those two bags, he really thought he'd made a pinch!)
     
  3. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    It's been a while since I read the books now, and I gave them all away some years ago, so I'm unlikely to read them again, so I'm also not able to recall which is my favourite, though I do remember having a soft spot for the little Nutmeg and her stories.

    For my taste the last few books lacked something, and I was less engaged with them, perhaps because some writing energy was missing, or perhaps simply because not even O'Brian could spin the Napoleonic War out forever, so he had to bring in other conflicts which I knew little or nothing about and which interested me less -- the South American one in particular I never bothered to read again. The casual way he killed off one of the more important of the crew without any repercussion or even any kind of grieving while perhaps realistic for the time, really irritated me as a reader, since I was fond of that character. So that rather put a kibosh on my enjoyment of what came after, too.

    I'd also urge you to read them in chronological order, which I think is (or is largely) the same as publication order (unlike the Sharpe books for instance), though from memory I think he's actually a bit cavalier with dates, and he tends to have more than 12 months' worth of action in any one calendar year.


    EDIT: By the way, there are also discussions of PO'B and the books here Patrick O'Brian and here Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian and some digressions in reviews by Vertigo of at least one Hornblower book.


    And I'll quote from a post I made several years ago about serendipity in reading as it might be of interest:

    After reading some good reviews, I bought Claire Harman's biography Fanny Burney. Very well written and I enjoyed it a good deal. But as I was reading about Burney's friendship with Hester Thrale and her family I kept getting odd brain-nudges of the 'I've read this somewhere before' type. I'd heard of Thrale's friendship with Samuel Johnson, but I hadn't read any Johnson biogs, or any other contemporary work which dealt with them, so it was a real puzzle. Thrale's daughter, also called Hester but usually known as Queeney, was particularly bugging me -- her nickname, the fact of her great learning, her estrangement from her mother when she (mother) took up with the Catholic Gabriel Piozzi and then married him, Queeney becoming Viscountess Keith...

    Then I clicked. Patrick O'Brian's Master & Commander - Queeney is Jack Aubrey's one-time maths tutor and now wife of Admiral Keith whose influence gets Jack his command.

    I knew that O'Brian had been meticulous in his research of the period, and I knew that all the political and naval figures would be real, but -- stupidly perhaps -- this was a real revelation that he had used a relatively obscure historical figure in this way. Oddly enough, finding the connection like this actually enhanced my pleasure in both books, not just the O'Brian - almost as if I kept expecting Jack to wander into the biography at some point. Though I suppose the 'I was clever enough to get the in-joke' was part of it, too!
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016
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  4. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Dave Wixon, I love your anecdote about the trunkful of books. It reminds me of my Philadelphia friend who, every few months, sends me a big box of books to give away to students (and I always keep some, too).

    Colporteurs of the fantastic, that's us, as I said to him.
     
  5. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Judge and Dave Wixon, I guess I will follow your advice and, once I finish The Fortune of War, carry on with the books in publication order as I continue reading. Thank 'ee!
     
  6. 2DaveWixon

    2DaveWixon Hoka-slayer

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    You're making me yearn to pull out those books again...

    P.S. No need to put in my last name when it's only us three here, right? "Dave," "2Dave," or "Hey, you!" will all catch my attention...
     
  7. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

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    They are all worth reading, preferably in order. Some are a bit better than others but all of a high standard. On or two of the early ones seem to narrowly avoid becoming Jane Austinesque comedies of manners.
     
  8. Vince W

    Vince W Well-Known Member

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    I'm going to start reading these again shortly. I've read the first two only and I want to continue now that my latest reading project is coming to a close.

    My biggest problem is one of edition. I need to buy the editions from 97-99 or thereabouts to go with the ones I already have. I know most people wouldn't care, but my shelf will look wrong if I don't.
     
  9. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

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    I would be surprised if you have top much problem sourcing these on ebay.
     
  10. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    I was happy in my friends -- a correspondent in Philadelphia had picked up a bunch of these books at freebie sites/library discards or the like and, a couple or so years ago, sent the batch to me for the cost of postage (with some other books)! What a pal!
     
  11. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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    Definitely. As the series goes along it pretty much becomes one long, continuous story with lots of recurring characters and pay-offs to set-ups from previous books, so reading them in the wrong order might be problematic, especially in the second half of the series.
     
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  12. Bick

    Bick A Member of the Forum

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    I read the first three or four of these. I didn't stop for any reason that reflects on the books - I loved them - it's just been a case of too many books/authors, too little time. I daresay I'll get back to them, as they were extremely enjoyable.
     
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