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Desolation Island (Aubrey & Maturin #5)

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4.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,603 Ratings  ·  321 Reviews
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. With a Dutch man-of-war to windward, the undermanned, outgunned Leopard sails for her life into the fre ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 17th 1994 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1977)
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Jon I started at the beginning, so I can't answer for what lies ahead. But I will tell you the first few in the series are very enjoyable, and do give…moreI started at the beginning, so I can't answer for what lies ahead. But I will tell you the first few in the series are very enjoyable, and do give quite a bit of background to situations alluded to in this book. This one seems the most sure-footed of the series so far. I would say go back, but only for more character building and background (O'Brian does pretty well with catching a new reader up I noticed).(less)
Anne Chappel Herapath - that's how she gets him to join her as a spy accomplaice
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jason Koivu
Jul 05, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Algernon
Nov 05, 2014 Algernon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

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
...more
Joshua
Jul 21, 2009 Joshua rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Felicity
Nov 17, 2008 Felicity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Felicity by: Ryan Grove
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
...more
Madeline
Mar 01, 2013 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historic-fiction
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
...more
Brad
Mar 05, 2015 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, Desolation Island is where Aubrey/Maturin settle into a comfortable familiarity with their readers, and the rhythm of these books, their own fine and sonorous strings, takes their ultimate shape.

There is confidence in Patrick O'Brian's writing at this point, and one no longer has any sense that he is worried about whether or not the next book will happen, nor any fear over where his Captain and his Doctor are going to take him. This is purely speculative on my part, of course, but I imag
...more
Kate
Jan 26, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Timothy Moriarty
Jan 05, 2011 Timothy Moriarty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Andy
Mar 07, 2016 Andy rated it really liked it
My annual return to the Aubrey & Maturin nautical adventures & as always the first chapter takes a while for you to adjust to C19th speak, before you become a fair natural & all maketh sense! The series is fairly formulaic in that we always start of ashore (landlubbing that be) & Captain Aubrey is like a man possessed without a ship beneath his feet, driven to distraction....... Dr Maturin will then make an appearance which will involve a sidetale of doctoring or indeed espionage ...more
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
...more
Karla
(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
...more
Reni
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
...more
Laura
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Patrick O'Brian's nautical adventure, dramatised by Roger Danes.


Michael
Mar 18, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jamie Collins
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
...more
Cherie
Mar 17, 2014 Cherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, read-audio
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
...more
Nooilforpacifists
Just not as good: no action (after the explosive beginning) and the remainder of the book spends too much time in Maturin's maudlin head.
Rachel
Aug 05, 2013 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Chiafos
Mar 30, 2015 John Chiafos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite so far of the Aubrey/Maturin novels. The last three chapters are some of the most vivid yet. Keep the next book handy--it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.
Roger Burk
Sep 25, 2015 Roger Burk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pleasure
So I picked this up after I finished the previous in the series, eager to know what happened on their return to England. Alas, this one opens perhaps months later, and that story isn't told. It tells an altogether different story, just as charming, about how the masterful and heroic sea-captain Jack Aubrey is totally at sea when on land. Then we get the clever and totally believable setup that gets Aubrey and the gifted physician, surgeon, naturalist, and secret agent Stephen Maturin on a voyage ...more
Jason
Feb 15, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my favorite of the series. Probably because I love Antarctica and hate the Dutch. Just kidding, Dutch people!
Ben
Oct 27, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ensiform
Apr 22, 2011 Ensiform rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, historical
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
Wealhtheow
Jun 03, 2011 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
...more
Angela
Dec 22, 2008 Angela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan
Sep 12, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2011, jack-aubrey
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
...more
Chris
Mar 02, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Desolation Island' is a quite fitting title for O'Brian's fifth Aubrey/Maturin novel. Though the location it refers to only plays a small part in the overall story, the title speaks more to the inevitable state of the characters contained within (cue a reference to the old "no man is an island" quote because it may as well be a central theme of this oftentimes lonely story) . Of course this novel brings the expected characters of the captain and surgeon to life, but it is also rich with a host ...more
Jefferson
Jun 15, 2015 Jefferson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Desolation Island (1978), the fifth novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian, begins like the fourth one, depicting the home life of Captain Jack Aubrey, but now his situation appears to be improved, due to his successful completion of the Mauritius mission (complete with juicy prize ships) in the fifth novel, so that he's paid off the debts of his mother-in-law-from-hell and has enough money to add extensions to his house and even to lend 780 pounds to his bosom buddy Stephen Matur ...more
Todd Stockslager
Not the best of the series so far, despite great action and character development through the first half. The second half of the book is taken up by a series of potential disasters, from a chase by a more powerful enemy, to a near-fatal fight with the enemy during a hurricane blow, to hitting an iceberg, to a near-mutiny, to nearly sinking due to a leak from the iceberg hit, to nearly starting the War of 1812 with an American whaling ship whose sheltering bay they have unwittingly invaded to try ...more
Somashekaracharya
Mar 04, 2015 Somashekaracharya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning presents a Jack who is all at sea ashore - playing cards with apparently respectable people but card sharps nevertheless and also unsuspectingly investing in a mining project. Sophie, privately concerned over all this, cleverly convinces him to assume command of the Leopard. Quite amusing
up to this.

To say the voyage on the Leopard is interesting is an understatement. O'Brien makes this voyage quite different from any of the previous voyages by introducing women and convicts on boar
...more
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Desolation Island. 5 51 Feb 06, 2014 12:30PM  
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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
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)

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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.”
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“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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