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Desolation Island (Aubrey & Maturin #5)

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  7,243 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy- and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew. With a Dutch man-of-war to windward, the undermanned, outgunned Leopard sails for her life into the free ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1977)
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Anne Chappel Herapath - that's how she gets him to join her as a spy accomplaice
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Jason Koivu
Jul 05, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who read the previous book in the series.
Here's Goodreads' sexy summary for this book:

Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend and surgeon Stephen Maturin sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy—and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew.

Sounds pretty salacious, doesn't it? There's a"rescue" of a prominent historical figure, the threat of a "treacherous disease," and a James Bond-esque "beautiful and dangerous spy." Wo

After four books in the company of Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin I have come to expect the best entertainment, the best historical and maritime instructions from each of their new voyages. The fifth book is no exception, I would even venture to say it is an improvement over the fourth. Jack Aubrey reached a pinnacle in his career during the Mauritius campaign, commanding the entire expeditionary force and expanding his tactical acumen to a larger playing board, with several ship
This is one of my favorites from the series. It contains what I believe to be arguably the most riveting sea chase in any novel. Captain Aubrey is to take the Leopard, a two deck ship of fifty guns to Botany Bay to come to the aid of William Bligh (yes that William Bligh of the Bounty) who is now Governor of New South Wales and seems to have yet another mutiny on his hands. On route, they are chased by the Waakzaamheid, a Dutch ship of the line (three decks of 74 guns) into the far southern ocea ...more
Though a second reading is less uncomfortable than the first (the edge of the seat is so sharp, and bad for circulation!) this is still an exciting, dare I say epic installment of the adventures of Aubrey and Maturin. With few sentences, O'Brian lets us infer a tragic story and a driving hatred that create the climactic chase of the book.

One of my favorite P.O'B. books.

Further thoughts (on the fourth or fifth reading): This book is a classic 'out of the frying pan, into the fire' adventure. Fro
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Timothy Moriarty
Excellent, as always. I can't say enough about this series. It requires some work from the reader, or the willingness of the reader to simply not understand some of it. What I mean is, writers of historical fiction have a choice to make: explain every custom, odd phrase, popular dish, law -- anything that the contemporary reader might not know about that period. Doing that, he or she has to slow the action down and explain, explain, explain.

But O'Brian never does that. Never. And we're talking p
This was my second Aubrey/Maturin book, and I chose it because this was how the plot description went: "Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend and surgeon Stephen Maturin sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy - and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew."

Holy shit, look at all that stuff! Mutineers! Sexy lady spies! Plagues! What isn't to like here?

First, a few corrections t
Sherwood Smith
By the time any reader of O'Brian's roman fleuve has made it this far, they know that the writing, the characterizations, the mix of history and fiction, humor and horror, romance and philosophy are all brilliantly handled, so no need to effuse in detail.

On a fifth and beyond reading, certain patterns emerge: the spy Mrs. Wogan in certain regards seems a trial for another female character who will appear later. At least as interesting is Maturin's troubled internal accounting for his actions in
(I listened to the unabridged audiobook version, read by Patrick Tull. --10/24/11)

Loved this story, the best of the lot I've read since Post Captain (though every single one is head and shoulders above most historical fiction I've ever read). It was quite different from the previous books, with the "action" being more of the episodic type aboard the HMS Leopard on its trip around the Cape, en route to Australia on a mission. The mission itself is secondary, as things like typhus, female prisoner
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Patrick O'Brian's nautical adventure, dramatised by Roger Danes.

A very enjoyable read but not the strongest installment of the series so far.

The story this time around lacks side-plots: It is pretty straight-forward from beginning to end, and I didn't find myself too smitten with the new characters. I had expected the convicts to play a larger role in the book, but, contrary to O'Brian's usual fondness for lavish description and social commentary, they are hardly mentioned and remain pretty inconsequential to the whole story, apart from providing a reason f
Five stars for the paper book; three for the Simon Vance audio book reading.

This book begins my favorite of the story arcs in the Aubrey-Maturin series. Jack and Stephen are aboard "the horrible old Leopard ", and there are some absolutely amazing action scenes in this book: the pursuit by the Dutch 74-gun during a storm; the chaos when the sailors abandon the damaged ship to sail away with Grant; the tense effort to bring the ship to Desolation island before she founders.

Then there's the human
It was GREAT! This is the first book in this series that I picked up at the library to listen to. I did not even realize it was part of a whole series until I looked for the title to add to my currently reading shelf.

I had seen the movie - Master and Commander, so I knew who the main characters were - their names at least.

This book was narrated by Simon Vance. I loved it!

I felt like I was right out there on the ocean with the crew. The characters are wonderfully done! The ship is so alive and p
The Aubrey/Maturin series is hit-or-miss, in my opinion. When O'Brian is good, he's absolutely top-notch; not only one of the finest writers of Age of Sail fiction but also just a superb writer. However, I found some of the first four books rather dull. I persist because even the dull ones have spots of brilliant writing, although they are intermixed with long-winded passages of internal dialogue in which Stephen Maturin writes in his diary, muses on his love for Diana, or struggles with laudanu ...more
Mar 18, 2009 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Bill Thomas
Patrick O'Brian hits the story telling mark on this novel- it's absorbing! After several years hiatus from reading the first few novels, the re-patriation to life aboard her Royal Navy's ships is consuming, watching over the shoulders of familiar characters of Aubrey and Maturin. Admittedly, it's not easy digesting dry history and foreign outdated jargon. As a reader coming into these books I knew very little. I had a foggy notion of Admiral Nelson as an historical figure. But foreign ports come ...more
This was my favorite of the series. Probably because I love Antarctica and hate the Dutch. Just kidding, Dutch people!
Desolation Island, written by Patrick O’Brian, is the story of the Leopard, an English ship sailing with a hull full of murderers to Australia. As the voyage continues on the crew begins to get sick and has to make an emergency stop on the way to Australia. As the boat continues on it becomes perused by the Waakzaamhied, a powerful dutch gunship, which seems to supernaturally keep pursuing the Leopard.
During the course of Desolation Island, the constantly changing setting help breath more life
In this, the fifth book in the Aubrey-Maturin series, Captain Aubrey is commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh after his famous mutiny, as well as to transport prisoners to Botany Bay. Felicitously, Dr. Maturin is asked by Sir Joseph Blaine to join Jack on the trip so that he can surreptitiously gauge what one captured female spy on board actually knows. On the trip, they are shadowed by a faster, stronger Dutch ship, and meet a crew of surly American whalers just as war might have broken out bet ...more
After some time on land, Captain Aubrey finally gets a ship again--an old ship with a terrible reputation, it's true, but at least it's a ship. With him sail his old friend, Dr. Maturin, and a berth full of convicts. But they rapidly run into problems--gaol fever, then a storm that nearly destroys them, and finally being trapped on an island until they can somehow repair their ship.

The scenes relating to the epidemic aboard ship were enthralling, as was fleeing a Dutchman across a storm that cr
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Another quite different entry in the Aubrey/Maturin series. Though no epic sea battles, this was still a very entertaining and interesting read. Wonderful sense of time and place and I love the characters. However, I find the author does not create female characters to relate to. In every book I've found them all either dim, having their own agenda, silly and just plain unlikeable. No wonder poor Stephen can't find a good woman to save his life and Jack is always willing to go to sea!

Looking for
Most of the way through Desolation Island, the enemy is not so much the French as the elements. The truth is, ships in the Age of Fighting Sail were significantly more vulnerable to storm and calm than those in that other interesting age of naval battles, the so-called Castles of Steel era of World War I. So, it is appropriate that, instead of using the hackneyed cliché of a warship wounded in a storm having to face a relatively fresh ship, a battle of bow and stern chasers is played out in the ...more
Richard E.
Series Overview.

I fell in love with the series from the opening scene of Master and Commander, and went on to read all 20 Aubrey-Maturin novels. The characters of Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin were initialized in that opening scene, and grew through the entire series. This is the best historical fiction I have read. In the series, I learned about British, French, Dutch, and Spanish naval operations during the Napoleonic wars. I also first learned of Napoleon's command and espionage structu
Jan 02, 2015 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sara by: Goodreads friend Shirley Baker
This book is difficult to put down despite descriptions of battles, sea weather, Antarctic islands and birds - because of the dramatic tension conveyed through each scene. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin take the Leopard south into the Antarctic - destination Botany Bay, to deal with a 2nd mutiny against Captain Bligh. They are also charged with delivering political prisoners taken as spies against England in what was to become the War of 1812. One prisoner, the American spy Louisa Wogan, turns ...more
The setup for the first five books has been the same: Jack Aubrey is ashore, waiting for developments that will take him back to see. I'm hoping that changes with the next, since Desolation Island only tells part of the story of Aubrey and Maturin's next adventure: carrying convicts to Botany Bay while on a mission to rescue the governor. Along the way there is a most harrowing chase by a superior Dutch ship of the line, and then a terrible accident that maroons our heroes and their crew on the ...more
Duncan Mandel
EDITORIAL REVIEW: First published in 1978 a historical maritime adventure featuring Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend and surgeon Stephen Maturin, who are bound for Australia with a cargo of convicts, among them a beautiful but dangerous spy and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew. By the author of HMS SURPRISE and POST CAPTAIN. SUMMARY: Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written. All eighteen books are be ...more
I believe this has been my favorite tale about Dr Maturin. The story of his intriguing in order to get misinformation disseminated to the enemies of Britain is the simple central plot and told with great force. The background is Jack Aubrey sailing in the Southern seas with a crippled ship damaged in a violent confrontation with a Dutch ship of the line.
Ed Holden
This is easily the most interesting story of the series so far, with transportees to Australia, quite a heaping spoonful of espionage, a resumption of old plot-lines and characters the reader might have assumed abandoned, and a surprising face-off with the Dutch instead of Aubrey's usual antagonist mainstay, the French. Plus, O'Brien delivers something different than the expected barrage of guns in battle, with Aubrey's ship surviving its encounter with the enemy but under dire circumstances.

After The Mauritius Command, with its slower pace and its more subdued tone, Desolation Island fairly bowls along, just like the horrible old Leopard in her long chase from the Dutch 74. Some beautiful descriptions of sailing and the sea, and nature in general, are here of course, but also some of the best characterization in the series so far. The parallels between Stephen Maturin and his protege Michael Herapath are subtle enough not to obtrude on the reader who might be annoyed by such things ...more
Robert Appleton
One of the best in the series so far. O'Brian is peerless when he kicks into dramatic gear. The chase during the storm, and everything that comes after it, is sheer brilliance.
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Desolation Island. 5 49 Feb 06, 2014 12:30PM  
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #3)
  • A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian
  • Ramage & the Drumbeat (The Lord Ramage Novels, #2)
  • Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
  • To Glory We Steer (Richard Bolitho, #7)
  • Sharpe's Triumph (Sharpe, #2)
  • A Battle Won (Charles Hayden, #2)
  • Patrick O'Brian's Navy
Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).

Set in the
More about Patrick O'Brian...

Other Books in the Series

Aubrey & Maturin (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1)
  • Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)
  • H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3)
  • The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4)
  • The Fortune of War (Aubrey/Maturin, #6)
  • The Surgeon's Mate (Aubrey/Maturin, #7)
  • The Ionian Mission (Aubrey/Maturin, #8)
  • Treason's Harbour (Aubrey/Maturin #9)
  • The Far Side of the World (Aubrey/Maturin, #10)
  • The Reverse of the Medal (Aubrey/Maturin Book, #11)
Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1) H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3) Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2) The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4) The Fortune of War (Aubrey/Maturin, #6)

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“To tell the truth, sir, I believe I had rather sit in the shelter for a while. The cabbage seems to have turned my inward parts to water.’
Nonsense,’ said Stephen, ‘it is the most wholesome cabbage I have ever come across in the whole of my career. I hope, Mr. Herapath, that you are not going to join in the silly weak womanish unphilosophical mewling and puling about the cabbage. So it is a little yellow in certain lights, so it is a little sharp, so it smells a little strange: so much the better, say I. At least that will stop the insensate Phaeacian hogs from abusing it, as they abuse the brute creation, stuffing themselves with flesh until what little brain they have is drowned in fat. A virtuous esculent! Even its boldest detractors, ready to make the most hellish declarations and to swear through a nine-inch plank that the cabbage makes them fart and rumble, cannot deny that it cured their purpurae. Let them rumble till the heavens shake and resound again; let them fart fire and brimstone, the Gomorrhans, I will not have a single case of scurvy on my hands, the sea-surgeon’s shame, while there is a cabbage to be culled.”
“The event caused a certain amount of ribaldry and a fair number of sentences depriving men of their grog for playing the God-damned fool, an offense that came under Article Thirty-six 'All other crimes not capital, committed by any person or persons in the fleet, which are not mentioned in this act, or for which no punishment is hereby directed to be inflicted, shall be punished according to the laws and customs in such cases used at sea,' also known as the captain's cloak or cover-all.” 6 likes
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