Oct 11, 10
Read in April, 2010
I had been wanting read some of Patrick O'Briens Aubrey-Maturin novels for several years. They have been described as grown up successors to C.S. Forester's Captain Horatio Hornblower novels that I absolutely loved in Jr. High. Somehow I accidentally got the second in the series instead of the first, but it's great anyway. I was surprised to find this book as much like Jane Austen as like Forester. Wouldn't have imagined there could be hybrid of Austen/Forester, but that pretty much describes this bookr. Much better than the movie (Master & Commander), which was actually taken from the tenth in the series. The language is a patterned after early 19th century English dialect, which is sometimes a bit hard to understand, but it does add authenticity. Needs a dictionary of dialect and sailing to go with it. O'Brien's writing is spare and efficient, bordering on cryptic, with no extra or wasted words. He's not big on flowery description - often omits it entirely - which puts a lot of plot in few words.
The historical aspects are fascinating, getting insights into how people actually lived, what they ate, how they talked, the practice of medicine, how they got their news, how they understood the world, the sciences, and of course, how they sailed and fought.
I will definitely read more in this series - have to - it's soap opera - multiple strands of plot interwoven with some left hanging for the next episode. Dr. Maturin is not just a sidekick to Captain Aubrey. He shares the plot as a separate principal character. So it's not just about a ship captain, but also about a physician and secret agent. Not just about England, but about Spain, France, and wherever they go. Ties together many threads of history.
The dialog is witty and funny at times, emotional at others. Always engaging.
They thing I haven't decided is whether it is literature that is fun, or whether it is a page-turner with pretensions. Either way, it was great fun.