Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin Novels

hitmouse

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I find Post Captain to be even better than Master & Commander. I can see that some will find it to be a curate's egg, given the fact that it is really a novel of 2 parts: firstly the Austenish domestic novel of manners, in which we are introduced to Diana Villiers, Sophie Williams, and Sophie's horrid mother Mrs Williams; and in which Aubrey and Maturin, now two young men of leisure, bumble around regency England, getting into trouble and nearly fighting a duel before moving on to the second part of the novel, which is all thrilling military action.

The two main characters develop individually and as a pair as the novel progresses. Stephen turns out to have hidden depths as an intelligence agent of great ability as well as an astute social observer. Aubrey is revealed to be extremely clumsy and even stupid on land whilst superbly able as both a leader and tactician at sea. Throughout, their dialogue is shot through with dry wit. The escape to Catalonia is very funny.

Excellent. I have enjoyed this much more on a second reading than I did originally 20-odd years ago.
 

Vertigo

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I find Post Captain to be even better than Master & Commander. I can see that some will find it to be a curate's egg, given the fact that it is really a novel of 2 parts: firstly the Austenish domestic novel of manners, in which we are introduced to Diana Villiers, Sophie Williams, and Sophie's horrid mother Mrs Williams; and in which Aubrey and Maturin, now two young men of leisure, bumble around regency England, getting into trouble and nearly fighting a duel before moving on to the second part of the novel, which is all thrilling military action.

The two main characters develop individually and as a pair as the novel progresses. Stephen turns out to have hidden depths as an intelligence agent of great ability as well as an astute social observer. Aubrey is revealed to be extremely clumsy and even stupid on land whilst superbly able as both a leader and tactician at sea. Throughout, their dialogue is shot through with dry wit. The escape to Catalonia is very funny.

Excellent. I have enjoyed this much more on a second reading than I did originally 20-odd years ago.
Yes, I felt O'Brian was getting into his stride with the second book and the characters became much more real, Maturin in particular. I think they continue to improve over the next few books before largely levelling off. Though I confess I did find the Austenesque section a little trying; not really my style!
 

Extollager

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Hitmouse, I took enjoyed this more the second time around.

In addition to elements you mentioned, I note Stephen's drug use -- laudanum; like that of his contemporary S. T. Coleridge, who made a miserable voyage in this same year of 1804 from Gibraltar to Malta, in which opium inflicted appalling constipation upon him. It's not pleasant reading but it's of considerable biographical and medical historical interest.

 
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Extollager

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I wondered if the bear suit episode was possible (p. 105) -- could even a muscular man stand up to the strain of walking like an animal "on all fours" for days? But aside from that question it's quite an adventure, all right.

I wasn't sure what the Boccherini Corelli sonata was (p. 236), though I tried to identify it. Boccherini certainly is pleasant listening.
 

Extollager

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Page 173: "'a very deep old file'" -- I think Dickens has that use of file for a person, but does it pass out of use before the century's end?
 

Extollager

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I think the movie got some dialogue from this one: "'it makes me so very low'" (p. 234), "'Quick's the word and sharp's the action'" (p. 366).
 

Vince W

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The film borrows from the entire series. It's rather amazing that the film is as coherent as it is, and I do enjoy the film a lot.
 

hitmouse

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The film borrows from the entire series. It's rather amazing that the film is as coherent as it is, and I do enjoy the film a lot.
Agree. The film takes a clever sample from a number of the books. Does the “ lesser of two weevils” joke come from book 2 or 3?
 

Extollager

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Shall we move a trifle ahead of schedule and begin discussion of H. M. S. Surprise sometime this month?
 

Extollager

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I’m up to page 140. I’m not sure I’ll have much lit’ry talk to offer but wow, what a storyteller.
 

Extollager

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What a pleasure H. M. S. Surprise was! I will not wait long to start the 4th book, I expect.

This is largely Stephen Maturin's book. Along with the pangs of romantic desire ("he "had spared no expense in making himself unhappy," p. 16), he suffers torture, self-surgery removing a ball from a duel (in which he killed his opponent), and disappointment of his passion for Diana Villiers. What a lot to endure, believably though, let it be said. At least he discovered a new tortoise. There are some good clues here for those who like the music, as I do: Boccherini is the chief name, while we see mention also of Hummel and Corelli. How pleasant that one can get good recordings of these composers.

Interesting to see the possible derivation of expressions still used though in ignorance of their meaning -- "toe the line" (p. 108), "plane sailing" (p. 121). Perhaps "junk" (salted meat) too.

I expect O'Brian to keep up this high level in the next book, The Mauritius Command.
 

Vertigo

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Yes I thought H M S Surprise was where O'Brian really gets into his stride with these books. Grim at times but a joy to read! And I felt they remain consistently good from this point until books 8 and 9, the Ionian Mission and Treason's Harbour, both of which were low points for me but definitely picked up again with 10, The Far Side of the World.
 
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