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The Golden Ocean (Golden Ocean #1)

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,086 ratings  ·  63 reviews
O'Brian's first sea-going novel, The Golden Ocean is a precurser to the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin series in its excitement and rich humor, its eloquent style and and tapestry of historical detail. Peter Palofox, second son of a poor Irish parson, sets out on the voyage of a lifetime when he seeks his fortune as a midshipman in Commodore Anson's flotilla. With five ships und ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published July 27th 1972 by Penguin (first published January 1st 1956)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,735)
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Jason Koivu
Yo-ho and a bottle of rum!

Avast singing, ya scurvy dog!

(sod off, ya goat-buggerin'--) Aye, aye, sir!

Arrrr, perhaps he's right. I should stick to reviews...


The Golden Ocean is one of O'Brian's earlier works and a forerunner of his seafaring, Aubrey/Maturin series. As such it's a little rougher around the edges and as a one-off, it is not quite as engaging, since you're not invested in the characters for the long haul.

However this can be very enjoyable for some, especially if you're already hoo
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Robert
This is the first of O'Brian's other series about life in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail. It`s only one tenth as long as the enormously more famous Aubrey/Maturin series and set nearly 100 years earlier.

A fiercely proud Irish boy and his companions dash off rather naively to serve on a ship destined to traverse the globe and encounter numerous adventures along the way.

What makes this truly different from those other Royal Navy books is that we see life on ship from the perspective of juni
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Liza
This is is a great way to get into the POB cult (and a great book to read if you've already exhausted the AUbrey-Maturin series). A wonderful, funny, touching, page-turning adventure on the high seas with 2 great main characters. I'm just sorry he didn't follow Peter and Sean for 19 more books!
Julie
Some time ago I read Patrick O'Brian's 20 book Aubrey-Maturin sequence over the course of four or five years. To begin with, I found them heavy going, and couldn't understand why they were held in such high esteem by the likes of Iris Murdoch. Then, about half way through the long second novel, Post Captain, it all fell into place. My brain suddenly 'got' the total immersion into the world of an early nineteenth century man of war and O'Brian's almost uncanny ability to capture every nuance of a ...more
Gilly McGillicuddy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
JULIE GUIDERA
Uniquely Old School

I didn't want to commit to the famous series, but wanted a taste of the author's voice because of his reputation as a skilled and prolific writer. The Golden Ocean was quite an amazing story in all its seafaring detail and British nautical language. Sometimes poetic, sometimes dull, I read a lot of it out loud. With all the sailing jargon and Irish-isms there could be pages where I was just guessing. O'Brian romanticized a difficult way of life, and I think by the title I cou
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Jim
I like a good sea story and this is a good one, based on the voyage of Commodore Anson in England's war against Spain in the mid-1700s. This was "the War of Jenkins' Ear"-yes, there was actually a war with that name! Anyway, O'Brian tells the story of a young Irishman who goes to sea and serves as a midshipman on Anson's flagship, Centurian. There's incredible hardship-and death- as the men face storms and scurvy, as well as the Spaniards.But there is real motivation, as the men sail in search ...more
Rachel
This was pretty disappointing, even for someone accustomed to O'Brian's slow pacing. By his own admission, he didn't care for plot, preferring to focus on the daily life and minor details of his characters. Yet O'Brian could write a page-turner when he chose to, as evident by The Road to Samarcand, an extremely gripping young adult adventure story. But The Golden Ocean just plods along for pages without relief. Anything interesting that happens - bad storms, engaging the enemy - happens off-page ...more
Robert French
Although I have read quite a number of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, I have not read either the The Golden Ocean nor The Unknown Shore. Ironically, these books have been sitting on my book shelves for the past 15 years. The Golden Ocean quite accurately mirrors the George Anson's voyage around the world from 1740 to 1744. It was extremely valuable to read concurrently an outline of the voyage at the same time as I was reading the novel. I was able to understand clearly the events in n ...more
Vasha7
This book is concerns the first three years of the nautical career of Peter Palafox, son of the curate of a poor parish in the west of Ireland, who shipped as a midshipman in 1740 as Commodore Anson took a squadron to the Pacific to destroy Spanish commerce, and hopefully come home loaded with Spanish gold.

It's a light-hearted adventure story, celebrating the joy of pushing through hardships to foreign lands to fight for riches (and coming home to a good woman's love, in the most traditional man
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Brett
The Golden Ocean describes the same voyage as in The Unknown Shore but from the point of view of Commodore George Anson's flag ship Centurion. As such, the fate of the squadron after Wager is driven ashore. The book centers around a young and destitute Irish Midshipman Peter Palowfox and his friend Sean O'Hara who is pressed as an Able Seaman.

The first few chapter of this book were somewhat laborious as we followed Palowfox's trip across Ireland. We are introduced to and get very much to know a
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Baseni
"George Anson, Kommodore in der Royal Navy, hat den Auftrag, die Verbindungen Spaniens zu seinen Kolonien an der pazifischen Küste Südamerikas zu stören. Hierzu läuft eine kleine Flotte von 8 Schiffen unter der Führung des Flaggschiffs „HMS Centurion“, ein Linienschiffs 4. Klasse, im September 1740 von Spithead aus. Dieses ist der Hintergrund des Romans um und über Peter Palafox, Midshipman an Bord der Centurion. Als Sohn eines armen Landpfarrers im Westen Irlands, kommt er durch Vermittlung zu ...more
Kay
I'd made stabs at reading several of O'Brien's books before, but somehow I never got very far along the 'learning curve' needed for nautical terminology and the background on his main characters. I had more success with this audiobook, though, as O'Brien's prose really lends itself to being read out loud (which I've long felt is one of the hallmarks of a great writer).

This historical held based on British Commodore George Anson's four-year circumnavigation of the globe held my attention. I've a
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Richard
I cannot add much to the other reviews. For those fond of the classic series, this is a must read. It is quite slow at the beginning. There is not the amount of action readers of his other books would expect. All said, an enjoyable read.
Joshua Rigsby
This is one of O'Brian's earlier books, predating the Aubrey/Maturin series. I highly recommend it, especially for readers who are just getting acquainted with O'Brian's nautical jargon. He is especially attentive to the non-sailor reader, providing explanations where necessary, especially in the beginning.

There are a couple places where the plot drags a bit, or creates unnecessary characters, but not distractingly so. This, as with his other works, is very closely hewn to actual events. O'Bria
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Sherri Anderson
Not as good as I was expecting. It was choppy and my lack of sailor knowledge made parts of the book hard to understand. I have been told his writing got better with his other books. Not sure if I will check it out or not.
Marie  Ash-Evans
One of the easier books to read that I have read written by Patrick O'brian. It is not one of a series and so the story is complete in this book. I enjoyed reading it very much; I enjoy sea tales and this one had almost everything - some, but not too much, sea lore, everyday life on board a ship, contemporary language; well-written; not too long; I felt as if I were reading about an actual person and an episode in his life. Takes place during the era of the Spanish galleons. If you enjoy reading ...more
Neil
Oh the joy! Just when all O'Brian addicts were getting over cold turkey withdrawal...the publishers bring us the Prequel.
This is every bit as wonderful as the Aubrey/Maturins, and the seeds of those characters can be seen in the two Irish boys who run away to sea. (Aubrey seems to be based on Commodore Anson, in fact). The jargon is, of course, like Swahili to the uninitiated, but that's the charm of it.
I might add that thin as it is, this has moments of great humour...perhaps more than in the s
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Motorcycle
I don't think I've read any of his that I haven't enjoyed. This one had a sense of the epic about it. All the Aubry/Maturin ones I've read are pretty episodic, and not all satisfyingly so. The narrative arcs sometimes leave something to be desired.

But this one was very self contained. As far as pursuing a particular goal, there were bits that could have been trimmed to focus it. None the less, I enjoyed the extended fabula, and wasn't disappointed by the expansiveness of the narrative. It was a
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Michael
In retrospect, this picaresque shows O'Brian warming up for the Aubrey/Maturin books to come. I found it rather slow going in the first half, gathering pace and interest in the back stretch.
Claire A
This is a marvelous story based on true events during the time when the British were at war with the Spanish. Attention to detail, character development and fast-moving events make this book an excellent read. Don't let all the nautical terms bog you down. I prefer to just get the gist of it and not try to analyze every new word of the seamen. By the way, I believe that this was the book that launched O'Brian into writing his memorable books of the sea. Some have even been made into movies.
Jerry Haigh
I have read the entire Aubrey/Maturn series at least six times, in order, and been captivated by many facets. Of course the sheer adventure is enthralling, but the way in which O'Brian has developed his characters as the books go along is magical. One reviewer called O'Brian " The Jane Austen of the 20th century." Right on! Only in the last two books as O'Brian aged and was no doubt under pressure from publishers, did the standards slip.
LeAnne
This book is the June selection from the Sunriver Book Store's Carol's surprise book club. Patrick O'Brian is famous for his series that was part of the movie Master and Commander, however, this book is not part of the series and was written earlier than that.

I really enjoyed reading about life on a British warship that sailed around the world. Terrible weather, Spanish gold, sinking ships...lots of adventure. Definitely worth the time.
Duncan
Before Maturin and Aubrey, there was this little volume, and it is a delight. Note the characters' names taken from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist, and the plot of the actual chase and capture of a Spanish treasure ship only slightly fictionalized. But all the themes of his later books, sans ruminations on aging, truncated, with his wonderful rhythm and language intact. This is a fun book by a master, not much talked about.
Kate
I'm a huge fan of Patrick O'Brian and his long series of nautical books. This nuatical story is an early one, before he develped the 2 main characters that are so beloved in the later series. That said, this book falls short in comparison. It does not even seem as well written to boot. It is of some interest and relevance to me as a devoted fan but I would not recommend it to a first-timer; read the Aubrey/Maturin series first!
Carrie
In this book, you can start to see where O'Brian is going as a storyteller, and some of the elements of the Aubrey-Maturin novels are here — the high-seas adventure, the chasing of prizes, etc. But the characters just aren't as strong. Granted, O'Brian had a lot more books to develop the characters of the Aubrey-Maturin series, but still — I felt far more immediately drawn in to the story in Master and Commander than I did here.
Andrew Hill
This early (pre-Aubrey/Maturin series) Patrick O'Brian novel exhibits the author's sense of humor, and hints at the gifts for character development and action that would be more fully manifest in his later books. This is an easier read than many of his later books, and is probably a good entry point for those unfamiliar with O'Brian's work. (A schematic diagram of an 18th-century Royal Navy vessel would have been useful.)
Jenny2
I read this because Adrian loves Patrick O'Brien books, and has read them all - a significant undertaking ... I tried one once before, at his urging, and found it so full of maritime jargon that it was unreadable (by me). Adrian particularly recommended this one, so I had another go. It was readable, and I finished it, but wouldn't go back for more. Very 'boys own', I thought.
Cole Schoolland
Recently been enjoying O'Brian's earlier works. This one was a treat. One gets to hear a slightly different take on life at sea from the perspective of an Irish midshipman. The book isn't quite as wrought with theme and tone as the Aubrey/Maturin series is. The pacing is also somewhat different and time lapses in jerking, shuddering leaps that take you by surprise.
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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

Golden Ocean (2 books)
  • The Unknown Shore
Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1) H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin, #3) Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2) The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4) Desolation Island (Aubrey/Maturin, #5)

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