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The Commodore

(Aubrey & Maturin #17)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  6,586 ratings  ·  192 reviews
After several installments of gallivanting around the South Seas, Aubrey and Maturin return home to England, where the surgeon-cum-intelligence-agent discovers that his wife has disappeared.

As if such a domestic crisis weren't enough, the intrepid pair are also dispatched to the Gulf of Guinea (to suppress the slave trade) and to Ireland (to rebuff an impending French inv
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published December 5th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1994)
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Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, aubrey-maturin
"Come cheer up my lads, 'tis to glory we steer
To add something new to this wonderful year:
To honour we call you, not press you like slaves,
For who are so free as we sons of the waves."

- Patrick O'Brian, The Commodore quoting the sailor-song "Hearts of Oak"


Captain Aubrey (technically Post-Captain) gets frocked (or the Naval equivalent) and now commands a squadron of ships. This was a temporary rank given to high ranking captains without making them admirals, thus saving the Navy the cost, but sti
This installment in the Aubrey/Maturin saga has definitely been a late-series high point. After several books at sea, our duo makes port at home where they find high drama in their personal lives. Jack's wife Sophie has taken extreme umbrage at the nearby presence of Clarissa Oakes, Jack's former passenger on a previous voyage who has a dress from the same bolt of cloth Jack gave her. *facepalm* And Stephen returns to find his wife Diana MIA when the reality of their daughter Bridget's autism be ...more
May 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I abandoned Tristram Shandy's light-hearted social commentary for a story with guts. Patrick O'Brian never fails to deliver.*

Jack Aubrey has his first fleet command. Part of the plot revolves around a contrast among the leadership styles of three ships' captains:

1. flog your people until they achieve your standard of perfection;
2. have sex with your favorites;
3. train your team so that they master a rewarding skill (in this case, sailing the ship and working its guns so as to maximize the potent
Jamie Collins
Jack and Stephen return home after a voyage around the world and an absence of years. Stephen meets his young daughter for the first time but does not find the picture of domestic happiness that he wished for. Jack and Sophie are reunited but soon have a falling out over a couple of painful misunderstandings.

They return to sea, Jack having been given command of a squadron and sent publicly to harass slavers off the coast of Africa and privately to intercept a French invasion force. Already distu
K.M. Weiland
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charming as ever, although featuring one of O’Brian’s more rambling and anticlimactic plots.
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Having circum-navigated the globe, Aubrey and Maturin have an interlude back in England before setting off to fight the slave-trade off the coast of Africa. These interludes are the weakest parts of this saga, for me; I just get a bit bored quite quickly. But soon enough we're back at sea with Aubrey in command of a small fleet for the second time and then matters fairly whizz along, like a ship clapping on sail, right up to the sky-scrapers. The problems of fleet command present new challenges ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
Like a visit with old friends!
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-books, fiction
Another book set mostly at sea, which I enjoy. This book marks Aubrey's move to a ship of the line, acting as a Commodore of a fleet, very much coming of age as a captain, nearing his advancement as an admiral. He and Stephen are feeling their age a bit, and maturing overall. Stephen also meets his daughter, who seems to be on the autism spectrum, and she is interestingly written. There is also a bit on the dangers of homosexuality in a ship, not out of moral reasons, but more in having a captai ...more
Greg Strandberg
This book has a jaunty pace and some quick turns. In other words, it keeps things moving and you get through the 300 or so pages pretty fast.

I really have to say that the earlier volumes were the best of the series.
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the pleasures of reading a series this long, covering this many years, is that as the characters grow older, so do we. Stephen loses his hair. Jack is constantly battling his weight. They both succumb to dangerous wounds and illnesses. They are jealous over their wives' behavior. They are thoroughly recognizable people, living in the world of the British navy during the Napoleonic wars.

It is time for the men to return home to their families. Sophie is a paragon of wisdom, but shows her te
CLIFFHANGER ENDING!!! Well, at least, as cliffhangery as these books actually get, which, to tell the truth, isn't very. Also, I actually had to look up an animal that Stephen gets obsessed with in this book, which I don't think's ever happened before (I really like animals, you might not know this about me, ha)! Plus, a main character almost dies, there's marital drama, and Padeen and Brigid are kind of adorable.

P.S. Pottos!
Renee M
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one with the slave ships.
I really loved this novel. There were very many beautiful and poignant sections. Just the chapters with Stephen and his daughter would have been enough to swallow my heart whole. But so so many other lovely, human, extraordinary moments made this one of my favorites in the series.
Sid Nuncius
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is now my third time reading through this brilliant series and I am reminded again how beautifully written and how wonderfully, addictively enjoyable they are.

In The Commodore, Jack and Steven’s personal affairs on land are, as so often, in some upheaval, but Jack is appointed Commodore of a squadron to suppress the slave trade off the East African coast and then to intercept and thwart a French squadron sent to raise rebellion in Ireland. It is another gripping and fascinating book, full o
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Commodore' by Patrick O’Brian represents a sort of homecoming for its characters, and a significant promotion for one of them. It is here that Jack Aubrey is given a promotion and put in charge of a squadron of ships with two aims: the first being to damage and disrupt the African slave trade (then only recently made illegal in England), and the second to stop a French squadron landing troops in Ireland. It has been several books since Jack and Stephen were back in England, and a certain am ...more
Joel Margolese
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book in the series. Hits the right notes, even has a battle at sea. Aubrey is moving up the ladder, and Maturin still fights addiction. But they do it with style and aplomb.
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while (The Mauritius Command, if memory serves) since we've gotten to see Aubrey in the company of other commanders and profit by noting the differences. O'Brian is up to some of his usual tricks in having the different captains stand as symbols of what Jack might have become had he not possessed his particular blend of discipline and camaraderie. Duff, a pederast who sleeps with his favorites, is perhaps the most extreme example of a captain rewarding his underlings to the degree th ...more
Alex Sarll
Having spent longer as Captain than the Napoleonic wars actually lasted, Jack Aubrey finally gets promoted, but of course rank hath its discontents; his squadron is not all that might be wished, containing one ship captained by a martinet without practical experience, and another in which unchecked sodomy has done for the company's discipline. Meanwhile, surgeon and spy Stephen Maturin may be overindulging in those remarkable coca leaves he discovered in South America, and has a highly-placed do ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen and Jack, after adventuring around the world and adding to their wealth of money and experience, return to England to find Stephen's wife Diana gone and Jack named Commodore of a squadron gazetted to the coast of Africa to put a damper on the slave trade and thence to Ireland to crush a French invasion. Jack has won the fast sloop Ringle gambling with his best friend and the Ringle comes in handy for Stephen is in danger from a French mole highly placed in the royal family. He must retri ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This was an excellent addition to this wonderful series. I loved how Jack Aubrey acquired the small, but fleet, Baltimore clipper, the Ringle, adding it to his nautical 'family.' Also, this book really provides a lot of very interesting information about the horrific trafficking in human beings from Africa to the Americas, and what the Royal Navy did in an effort to thwart it. Not only is the reader able to spend quality time with all of the familiar characters, but some wonderful new characters ...more
Sep 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here we have the 17th installment in this wonderful Napoleonic-era naval adventure series. I've been away from this series for over a year (and am not entirely sure why) and it has been such a delight to again immerse myself in the funny, super-smart, high-stakes world of Jack Aubrey, now a commodore of a fleet of ships, and Stephen Maturin, everyone's favorite illegitimate Irish/Catalan doctor/spy. This book is notable for Maturin meeting his daughter (I did not think I could love Maturin anymo ...more
Dec 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1st time I read this: ca.1994

2nd time: Starting Christmas Eve, 2013. I had an urge to pick up the series again, where I left off about 2000. It was still a great read. This volume featured a lot of Stephen's naturalizing, internal thinking, and overcoming yellow fever.

The passage in which he hears his daughter overcome what appears to be autism has been one of my favorites in the series.

Jack, on the other hand, is confronted with a much more independent-minded, and self-assured, Sophie, which f
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Maturin and Aubrey return home to their families (Maturin finally meets his daughter!) and then go off adventuring again. Aubrey is given command of a whole fleet of ships, and his joy in the promotion is a delight to read.
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war
Another installment of the Aubrey/Maturin series, really enjoying watching Aubrey's career.
Dan Yingst
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Things get much more psychological, and much more focused on Stephen, a trend which I understand continues, and which I'm unsure how much I like.
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4* for this book 5* for the series
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jack-aubrey, audio, 2014
Another good adventure with Jack and Stephen. I am coming to the end of this series and am sad that I have only a few new stories (to me) to finish up.
Gilly McGillicuddy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andreas Schmidt
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un po' di qualità
Di per sé questo libro non racconta molto, anzi sembra piuttosto che l'autore abbia perso il gusto di narrare le battaglie in mare (cambiamento di stile?). Più che altro è un rimescolare di alcune vicende, che avevano lasciato il lettore con il fiato sospeso: come al solito, in Patria, Diana ha un problema, allo stesso modo della figlia Brigit, di Maturin. Al ritorno, il dottore semplicemente si ritrova (direi che è quasi una soluzione scontata, se non banale) a dover affidare a
John Frankham
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
One of the best in this series, combining development of many of the plot threads as the blurb below shows. Not surprising that this has a GR rating of 4.41.

The GR blurb:

‘Having survived a long and desperate adventure in the Great South Sea, Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin return to England to very different circumstances.
For Jack it is a happy homecoming, at least initially, but for Stephen it is disastrous: his little daughter appears to be autistic, incapable of speech or contact, w
Mike McLean
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly Recommended.

Finished this book last night. Its taken me a while as I've been busy recently and have not had much time for reading. I've been slowly working through this excellent series for several years and always leaving a gap for 6 months or more before reading the next one as they are so good that I didn't want to finish the series too quickly. The Commodore has certainly met the high standard of all the others I've read. Initially with Master & Commander and Post Captain these bo
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Goodreads Librari...: Missing Cover 2 14 Sep 21, 2015 06:36AM  
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur
  • A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian
  • Ramage & the Freebooters (The Lord Ramage Novels, #3)
  • A Battle Won (Charles Hayden, #2)
  • H.M.S. Cockerel (Alan Lewrie, #6)
  • Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
  • Mr. Midshipman Easy
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

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)
  • Desolation Island (Aubrey & Maturin #5)
  • 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)
“Other people's marriages are a perpetual source of amazement.” 29 likes
“Stephen had been put to sleep in his usual room, far from children and noise, away in that corner of the house which looked down to the orchard and the bowling-green, and in spite of his long absence it was so familiar to him that when he woke at about three he made his way to the window almost as quickly as if dawn had already broken, opened it and walked out onto the balcony. The moon had set: there was barely a star to be seen. The still air was delightfully fresh with falling dew, and a late nightingale, in an indifferent voice, was uttering a routine jug-jug far down in Jack's plantations; closer at hand and more agreeable by far, nightjars churred in the orchard, two of them, or perhaps three, the sound rising and falling, intertwining so that the source could not be made out for sure. There were few birds that he preferred to nightjars, but it was not they that had brought him out of bed: he stood leaning on the balcony rail and presently Jack Aubrey, in a summer-house by the bowling-green, began again, playing very gently in the darkness, improvising wholly for himself, dreaming away on his violin with a mastery that Stephen had never heard equalled, though they had played together for years and years.

Like many other sailors Jack Aubrey had long dreamed of lying in his warm bed all night long; yet although he could now do so with a clear conscience he often rose at unChristian hours, particularly if he were moved by strong emotion, and crept from his bedroom in a watch-coat, to walk about the house or into the stables or to pace the bowling-green. Sometimes he took his fiddle with him. He was in fact a better player than Stephen, and now that he was using his precious Guarnieri rather than a robust sea-going fiddle the difference was still more evident: but the Guarnieri did not account for the whole of it, nor anything like. Jack certainly concealed his excellence when they were playing together, keeping to Stephen's mediocre level: this had become perfectly clear when Stephen's hands were at last recovered from the thumb-screws and other implements applied by French counter-intelligence officers in Minorca; but on reflexion Stephen thought it had been the case much earlier, since quite apart from his delicacy at that period, Jack hated showing away.

Now, in the warm night, there was no one to be comforted, kept in countenance, no one could scorn him for virtuosity, and he could let himself go entirely; and as the grave and subtle music wound on and on, Stephen once more contemplated on the apparent contradiction between the big, cheerful, florid sea-officer whom most people liked on sight but who would have never been described as subtle or capable of subtlety by any one of them (except perhaps his surviving opponents in battle) and the intricate, reflective music he was now creating. So utterly unlike his limited vocabulary in words, at times verging upon the inarticulate.

'My hands have now regained the moderate ability they possessed before I was captured,' observed Maturin, 'but his have gone on to a point I never thought he could reach: his hands and his mind. I am amazed. In his own way he is the secret man of the world.”
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