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Master & Commander

(Aubrey & Maturin #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  53,641 ratings  ·  3,733 reviews
As the Royal Navy takes part in the wars against Napoleonic France, young Jack Aubrey receives his first command, the small, old, and slow HMS Sophie. Accompanied by his eccentric new friend, the physician and naturalist Stephen Maturin, Aubrey does battle with the naval hierarchy, with his own tendency to make social blunders, and with the challenges of forging an effecti ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published August 17th 1990 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1969)
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Lynn Patrick O'Brian's Navy: The Illustrated Companion to Jack Aubrey's World by Richard O'Neill and The Patrick O'Brian Muster Book: Persons, Animals, Shi…morePatrick O'Brian's Navy: The Illustrated Companion to Jack Aubrey's World by Richard O'Neill and The Patrick O'Brian Muster Book: Persons, Animals, Ships and Cannon in the Aubrey-Maturin Sea Novels by Anthony Gary Brown. Also, A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian by Dean King.(less)
Randy Lee Definitely character development - Both in our reveal as to the characters' nature/motivations as well as actual character development (ie., change of…moreDefinitely character development - Both in our reveal as to the characters' nature/motivations as well as actual character development (ie., change of nature).(less)

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This story posed a bugger of a ratings quandary for yours truly.

While reading it I was bouncing around between everything from a bountiful 5 star rating for pure quality of writing, hefty historical detail and superbly drawn characters, all the way south to a skimpy 2 star for less than engaging plotting, iceberg-like pacing and noticeable lack of emotional resonance. Finally, in my best impression of Solomon, I settled on a solid, if not quite ebullient, 3 stars based on the fact that I was de
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
The classic high seas adventure!


In the year 1800, Jack Aubrey sits next Stephen Maturin at a musical performance in Port Mahon, Minorca, a base of the British Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and Italy. They immediately rub each other the wrong way. Both are snappish because of other issues in their lives, and they part planning on next meeting for a duel. But when Jack is given his first command of a ship, all is forgiven, and he needs a ship's surgeon: who better than Stephen
Henry Avila
Jack Aubrey the frustrated naval officer, at last after a long wait on shore receives his own ship to command the brig Sophie, but by the strange ways of the British Royal Navy called a sloop. The year 1800 Napoleon is unstoppable on land, but the British rule the Seas. In Port Mahon on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, captured from the Spanish, allies of the French. Aubrey tries to gets his ship ready, war rages it has for many years. He a music lover meets Stephen Maturin on dry land, duri ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
You know, I've often been annoyed by the fact that so many times, I never get to experience something the way it was intended, or to its fullest. Because someone else always gets there first, and someone's else's eyes are always put in front of mine before I get the chance to do it for myself (I recall writing a very emotional paper on Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, the Chevalier book and the movie that followed along these lines. Yeah, I was a silly teenager). I often see the parodies of ...more
The music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet. The players … were playing with passionate conviction as they mounted towards the penultimate crescendo, towards the tremendous pause and the deep, liberating final chord.

Thus the first sentence of Master and Commander; thus begins the grand series of historical novels penned by Patrick O’Brian over the last three decades of t
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
"There was a bubbling furious excitement rising in his chest ; the waiting was over, this was the now itself."

Patrick O'Brian`s Master and Commader is a masterfully narrated tale of the wonderful voyage of the Sophie and the friendship of Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and Dr. Stephen Maturin, Sophie's surgeon.

It is the year 1800, Britain is at war with France. A brave, adventurous, talented seaman Jack Aubrey, gets an opportunity to command the Sophie, an old ship which was unlikely to b
Philip Allan
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I grew up with C.S. Forester’ Hornblower books, which gave me a lifelong passion for both the sea and the navy of the long 18th century navy. It was this that attracted me to the work of Patrick O’Brian. I first picked up a copy of Master and Commander in the 1980s, and was immediately stuck by the writing style. The author was using authentic regency dialogue, and seemed to make no attempt to compromise in his use of nautical jargon. This made the first few chapters disconcerting, but I soon fo ...more
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: partly-read
I loved the film, and really, really wanted to love this book (with plans to go on and read others in the series) but with the exception of perhaps the first chapter, I found the first hundred pages to be sheer drudgery. O'Brian is obviously a brilliant writer and scholar, but the lengths to which he luxuriates in nautical lingo - coupled with the already flowery (however beautiful) vernacular of the time - rendered the text incredibly inaccessible in terms of a casual read. I'm years out of sch ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maybe it's a blasphemy, but I prefer the Aubrey-Maturin series to all others, even Holmes-Watson. Every book is packed to absolute straining with erudition, wit, history, and thunderous action. I read two books from the series every year - they're reliable standbys when I absolutely must read something I know I will love. ...more
ii. I'm at it again, but this time I opened up my Aubrey-Maturin reread by listening. It took a month of commuting, but it was worth the time and the patience, and though I have gleaned no new insights into Master and Commander, my enjoyment of the audio experience was more than fulfilling enough.

O'Brian wasn't a big fan of the audio versions of his books, nor of the men reading them: “To revert to my ideal reader: he would avoid obvious emotion, italics and exclamation marks like the plague
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, aubrey-maturin
“Patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”
― Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander


Over the years I've collected O'Brian's paperback novels at used book stores, sale racks, goodwills, etc., one or two at a time. I almost have a complete paperback set (I also recently broke down and bought a four volume complete set), but didn't yet feel quite ready to attack. I needed a push
Ahoy, calling all fans of historical fiction! This first book in Patrick O'Brian's popular series about a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars was a surprising delight.

I say surprising because even though I had seen some great reviews of it by fellow Goodreaders, I was intimidated to read it out of fear of the nautical jargon. I listened to this on audio (narrated by the excellent Simon Vance) and I was glad I also had a print copy handy so I could look up some terms. My edition
Jason Koivu
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Master and Commander begins English author Patrick O'Brian's lush and literary epic seafaring historical fiction series based on the career of a naval captain during the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

Through out the entire series O'Brian delves into the themes of love, war and friendship. At the heart of M&C is the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Irish surgeon and naturalist Stephen Maturin. When they meet at the book's outset - Aubrey a lieutenant without a ship, Maturin a doctor with
Meredith Holley
This book is very valuable insofar as it has taught me to respect the society of men the way I would respect the circle around a chained-up rabid dog. Usually it seemed like the men were always criticizing each other behind one another's backs and this usually arose from something like “he has slightly insulted my honor or friend, perhaps unintentionally, I'm not going to find out, I'm just going to list off and exaggerate every one of his faults because it will create a deeper bond between me a ...more
Apr 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I'm putting this volume on my list to represent the entire twenty-volume series, which I've almost finished now. If you saw the Peter Weir movie, my impression was that the period detail was nice and Russell Crowe was well-cast but the rest of the film really didn't convey what is wonderful about Patrick O'Brian's mind.

These are naval adventure stories, set mostly aboard a British man-of-war during the Napoleonic conflicts. In those respects they are like C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower seri
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s 1800 and the British navy is at war with Napoleon. Jack Aubrey is given command of his first ship. The main and most lovingly drawn character in this book is the ship itself, the Sophie. The knowledge Patrick O’Brian has of 19th century naval vessels is remarkable, almost overwhelming. I have to confess that at times there was almost too much research in this novel. Virtually every sentence contains nautical terms that I had to look up. It’s a very cinematic novel – more focused on action s ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Never mind manoeuvres, always go at them.”

-Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander


O'Brian's Master & Commander, the first of his impressively lengthy 21-volume Aubrey/Maturin series which takes place during the era of the Napoleonic Wars, surely must have one of the all-time great set-ups of a male friendship in all of literature. The meeting of our two protagonists - Jack Aubrey an impoverished lieutenant aching for command of a ship, Stephen Maturin a rather aimless surgeon with a deep love f
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: adventure, guy-lit
Now, this is my favorite maritime historical novel. It has just dislodged Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdhal and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen. The reason: the detailed and vivid writing of Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000). How could a trained pilot write a 20-novel Aubrey-Maturin (yes, this is 411-page book is just the first) about naval warfare during Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) with such details and jargons as if he was from the era? R ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the Hornblower series not long ago, also as audio books, & this series was recommended to me. The comparison is obvious since both cover the same subject, a British officer during the Napoleonic Wars & beyond. Both are historically accurate in many ways, although this series seems a bit richer for historical detail, one of the good by-products of O'Brian's wordy style.

Well read by Simon Vance. He always does a good job & is particularly suited to this series.

The characters are also more f

I smile every time I read the first pages of Master and Commander knowing that hours, days of pure reading joy lie ahead.

In the music-room in the Governor’s House at Port Mahon, the triumphant first movement of Locatelli’s C major quartet is coming to a resolution. A Royal Navy lieutenant conducts from his audience seat. Beside him, a small dark man, also intent on the music whispers: 'If you really must beat the measure, sir, let me entreat you to do so in time and not half a beat ahead.'
For a
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Second time lucky: in my first attempt, I put the book away after a chapter and a half, slightly daunted by maritime jargon and a little bored by the lack of action right from the start. I guess it also caught me in a bad spot, too tired to give the story a fair chance, because coming back to it years later, I couldn't put it down, immediately setting aside the other three books I had on. The technical terms are as eclectic and frequent as I remembered (the schematic of a square rigged ship incl ...more
Karl Jorgenson
Jun 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O'Brian has done what we all should encourage: researched another place and time and brought it alive for us. It's delightful to serve in the British Navy 322 years ago; delightful, that is, as long as you don't actually have to be there and be shot with a musket ball, eat hard tack, have the doctor 'let blood' from you weekly, be flogged for misbehavior, etc. A similar, authentic other-time experience can be had with 'Fire in the East' by Harry Sidebottom, the story of one commander in Rome's l ...more
I did not enjoy reading this book. I forced myself to finish it. Why did I not dump it? Two reasons. There are some descriptive lines that create an atmosphere that drew me in. Secondly, the tale is episodic; I was hoping that episodes in the latter half would turn my view around. The descriptive lines proved to be too few and only one episode, about half-way through, satisfied me.

If one were to ask me to answer quickly how I reacted to this book, my response would be I did not like it. That is
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
As a big fan of historical fiction I have long been meaning to try Patrick O’Brian, despite not believing myself to particularly like naval stories. I actually enjoyed this a lot although I did skim quite a bit of the ship details when they got a bit much. I enjoyed Jack Aubrey and the troubles he got himself into and found him a funny character. I will definitely try more from the series. The audio was very well done.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
This series has been on my To Be Read list for a few years. My interest in boats and sailing together with my love of historical fiction prompted me to finally start reading on the anniversary of my first year of living on a boat, travelling around the world. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, I try not to read blurbs and it had been a while since I had seen the hollywood movie Master and Commander and trust, as with most adaptions, it doesn't really give you an indication of what the book wi ...more
I think Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are two of the greatest characters ever. And part of what makes them so great is that POB wasn't afraid to let them be complex and awkward and sad. He wasn't afraid, either, to let them be products of their time. Too often, writers of historical fiction feel like they need to make their characters some kind of historical prodigy -- the 18thC doctor who has discovered that if he feeds his patients this special mold, they'll get better. That sort of thing. B ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-audio, series
Oh My Goodness! I can't begin to put into words just how much I enjoyed listening to this story! It was unbelievably wonderful listening to Simon Vance bring O'Brian's characters to life.

I am in complete awe at having just discovered this series and knowing there are eighteen more books still to be enjoyed.

How wonderfully well written the characters are and how much I care about them already! I love the doctor and how he writes in his journal about Jack Aubrey and his shipmates.

O'Brian makes l
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic-fiction
I'll be totally honest here: I read this book because I saw the movie version first. There were other reasons, of course - this book (and the entire series) is generally well-reviewed, and my dad is a huge fan of the series. But mostly I picked this up because I freaking love the movie and wanted to see how the book matched up.

Very well, it turns out. Although some good parts from the movie are missing here (like that adorable kid who gets his arm amputated), I didn't mind - Master and Commande
Clemens Schoonderwoert
Read this book in 2007, and its the 1st volume of the wonderful "Aubrey/Maturin" series.

This first outing is set in the year AD 1800, during the Napoleonic Wars, fought on Sea and Land, and this book will see the close friendship and bond between Captain Aubrey, and his ship's Surgeon and Intelligence Agent, Stephen Maturin.

Storytelling is absolutely wonderful, and all figures featuring in this amazing seafaring tale come all vividly to life whether on the upper or below decks aboard ship, and t
Sherwood Smith
The first time I read it, I sat down in my reading chair, curious, disengaged, the warm summer air wafting through my open window the distant cries of children running on the grass. Another rereading, during the bleakness of a winter day, the sweet spice of cinnamon-laced hot chocolate at my side; a third image, just a flash, splashing across the deep green lawns of Mount Vernon, the book tucked firmly under my arm to protect it, at least, as I cannot protect my clothing, for I had no idea that ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Aubrey & Maturin (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • 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)
  • The Reverse of the Medal (Aubrey & Maturin #11)

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