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The Wine-Dark Sea

(Aubrey & Maturin #16)

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  7,585 ratings  ·  254 reviews
At the outset of this adventure filled with disaster and delight, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin pursue an American privateer through the Great South Sea. The strange color of the ocean reminds Stephen of Homer's famous description, and portends an underwater volcanic eruption that will create a new island overnight and leave an indelible impression on the reader's imagin ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published October 17th 1994 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1993)
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Iain Hello - I read my first few out of order initially, after picking them up at random on my travels. They're still fairly accessible, as each one begins…moreHello - I read my first few out of order initially, after picking them up at random on my travels. They're still fairly accessible, as each one begins with a recap of what's happened in the previous. story. That said, they're much more rewarding when read in order. Hope that helps, and hope you enjoy!(less)

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Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, aubrey-maturin
“And jealous now of me, you gods, because I befriend a man, one I saved as he straddled the keel alone, when Zeus had blasted and shattered his swift ship with a bright lightning bolt, out on the wine-dark sea.”
—Homer, The Odyssey, Book V
"oínopa pónton"


So, "wine-dark sea" is a phrase used quite a bit by Homer. And Homer was quite an author I guess. And he did some pretty damn good writing about boats and stuff. So, it is only natural that Patrick O'Brian would eventually get around to using th
Jason Koivu
Jun 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Taking out American privateers and snatching up prizes is all in a day's work for Captain Jack Aubrey!

The Wine-Dark Sea moves the setting from Australia and the South Pacific on over to South America. This is a perfectly fine continuation of the series. If anything, it's the most O'Brian-esque book O'Brian ever wrote. It spends a great deal of time describing the world through the eyes of early 19th century English sailors. Aubrey's particular friend and ship's surgeon, as well as naturalist an
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, read-audio
One of my favorite in the series yet. Imagine being in a sailing ship near an underwater volcano when it decided to erupt and push up to the surface! Ice bergs in the south sea at the tip of South America and a sea battle with an American Man of War and escaping by the skin of their teeth. Struck by lightning and no main mast nor rudder. Doomed to sail ever eastward 5000 miles until they reach land again???
Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Doctor Stephen Maturin, an intelligence agent of formidable powers, is dispatched to discomfit the Napoleonic French and their allies. With him comes his particular friend, naval captain Jack Aubrey. Each of them has some successes on this long voyage--Jack takes a truly ridiculous number of prizes--but are battered by their adventures and happy to head home.

I love this series so much. At this point,the continued travails of the Surprise's crew, captain, and surgeon are as comforting and interes
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sea
The first book by O'Brian that I read -- or 12 pages anyway. Then I put the book down, went back to the bookstore and bought the first five books in his Aubrey/Maturin series. A whole new world of pleasure opened up fifteen years ago that still satisfies today.

My favorite section of the book narrates Stephen Maturin's journey across the high Andes of Peru in the company of a naturalist of Incan descent.
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not to read a handful of the Aubry books is to miss visiting one of the most thoroughly realized and absorbing imaginary worlds in all of English literature. O'Brian may not be as essential to life as Shakespeare, but he makes life richer by far. ...more
Renee M
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The one with Volcanoes and icebergs. Jack and Stephen get soundly mangled between the battles and the frostbite. Lots of chase and be chased. Plus, some intrigue in Peru, lots of cool animals for Stephen, and plenty of prize money.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4.5- so much fun even without understanding all the ship talk! In fact the ship talk is fun too because the vocabulary and particular manners expected between crew and captain are peculiar and strangely fascinating!!
This was a book given me by my buddy in a book swap and I’m so glad!
Nov 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A return to form, in most respects, largely occasioned by O'Brian's lighting on a new theme, one that bids fair to carry him through the rest of the series--at least I hope so. It's a bit surprising he hadn't hit on it before this, but for the first time in the series, the undercurrent to the Aubrey-Maturin story is age and loss. One of Austen's characters in Persuasion remarks on how a life at sea ages a man horribly. Given all their adventures and misadventures (captures, multiple maroonings, ...more
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
It says something about O'Brian's writing that, despite having a SPOILERIFIC description here on Goodreads, the initial portion of the novel - with the strange behavior of the sea causing everyone concern and dread, a slow build-up to the big reveal - still had power and beauty, even if I had been robbed of the suspense.

The middle of the series seemed to lag, but the last third has been strong and constantly on the upswing. Even though there are repetitious details (innate to series), the charac
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Better; much better. Still did a ten-page data dump before starting the story, but at least there was a story.

Good characterization. The Peruvian excursion was a welcome diversion. Volcanoes, icebergs and shipwrecks, oh my.

A recurring theme is hubris, with various characters often counting on favorable outcomes only to have the cold water of reality dashed in their face.
Judith Johnson
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What a cracker! In spite of the fact that I am with child to find out what's happening back at the ranch with Diana, I thoroughly enjoyed this - excellent dramatic episodes, and all the usual O'Brian side stories - natural history, medicine, social history, international relations etc etc. As always, if my husband had given me a sideways glance as we sat relaxing and holiday-reading together in the Austrian alps, he would have seen that my face was wreathed in smiles, and, (but for goodness sake ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Thurston
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading Patrick O'Brian's 20-book Aubrey-Maturin series has been one of the highlights of my life. (I say that without a hint of hyperbole.) Through O'Brian first 16 novels (only 4 to go) I have circumnavigated the globe in the early 1800s at least three or four times, largely on board the H.M.S. Surprise, a 28-gun (28 canons) frigate; I have fought yardarm-to-yardarm with French, Dutch, Spanish, American, and pirate ships of similar or greater size; I have explored faraway lands where now-extin ...more
Mar 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Another in the series of Aubrey Maturin books that I just finished. I love this series but I found this book to be the most uninteresting of the series so far. Not sure why, it just seemed a story that didn't go anyplace nad maybe its because Jack and Stephen need to get back to their wives in England and stop running into trouble in the South Pacific and South America. I do still give it 3 stars because even though the story wasn't as good as past ones, I still enjoyed the writing and the reali ...more
Jamie Collins
Lots of action in this one: a volcanic eruption, pirates, gales, lightning, icebergs, broadsides and chases. Wonderful book, even with the relatively dull section when Stephen is on his own in Peru.

My favorite scene is when Jack and a small crew arrive in the harbour after days in a small boat, nearly dead from exposure and dehydration, and Tom Pullings very nearly does not recognize them.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Wine Dark Sea, book number 16 of the Aubrey-Maturin series starts with a chase, ends with a chase and has the usual excitement and intrigue in between. The HMS Surprise voyages to Peru, where Maturin hopes to help the independence movement of Peru. He makes a land journey from Lima to Valparaiso in Chile, through the Andes, observing the flora and fauna of South America and reunites with the Surprise. The writing style, is superb and the historical accuracy transports the reader to the Briti ...more
Neil R. Coulter

"No. Harking back to this voyage, I think it was a failure upon the whole, and a costly failure." (261)
I'm not sure this is an advisable way to end a book--especially a book which, in my opinion, had more downs than ups. I really enjoyed the beginning of this one, with a plot point that was different from anything Aubrey and Maturin have experienced on other voyages (and it's a good thing this point comes up early in the novel, since Geoff Hunt's cover illustration gives it away).

But then...oh,

Alex Sarll
I have, this past month or so, been haunted by the guanaco - a wild cousin to the llama of which I had previously been unaware, but which suddenly started popping up everywhere. And true to form, the South American sections here contain a surprising quantity of guanaco action. Not that coincidental camelids are the book's chief charm, which as ever resides in the delightful pairing of bluff Jack Aubrey (good cheer, naval heroism, terrible puns) and Stephen Maturin (surgeon, natural philosopher, ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
As I stagger past the 3/4 mark of this enormous series of books I am struck by the observation that I am more interested in Maturin than Aubrey. Really though, it's being more interested in what's going on on land than on ship - which is the complete opposite of what I would have said in the first quarter of the series.


See the complete review here:
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sailing
After the unusually downbeat tone of Clarissa Oakes, I found 'The Wine-Dark Sea' a return to form for the Aubrey & Maturin series. Although it is more solemn than the ebullient earlier novels, there are still joyful scenes. Moreover, it is only fitting that the narrative recognises its protagonists aging. Neither Jack nor Stephen can shrug off injuries as they used to. Their behaviour hasn't really changed to accept this, however. (view spoiler) ...more
Sid Nuncius
Aug 11, 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.

The Wine-Dark Sea follows Jack, Steven and The Surprise to the second part of their long, long mission in Peru and Chile where Steven’s intelligence work becomes very involved and he also has a very lengthy journey through the Andes. There is also a lot of seagoing action, of course, and yet another superb character study – possibly O
Apr 21, 2018 added it
Shelves: new-in-2018
I kept waiting for the story to start. Eventually it ended. O’Brian doesn’t work for me. Obviously, I am in a minority. I liked the film of Master & Commander. But such few books as I have read have not engaged me.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable thing about O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels is that they do not fade in detail, eventfulness or charm as the series draws on. This novel brings new delights as well as the familiar battles, intrigues and well-drawn characterizations.
Julie Davis
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Chock-full of adventure and travel to foreign parts - in this instance Peru and the Andes mountains. As well as underwater volcanos, rounding the Horn and a return to espionage. Very satisfactory.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
From time to time while reading Patrick O’Brian’s novels in the Aubrey-Maturin series I stop and search them for signs of late style. By this I mean the sense of an ending, or at least the feeling that there is surely more of them behind me than there is in front. I recently finished The Wine-Dark Sea, which is the sixteenth instalment in a series that began in 1969 and ended with the publication of a final (unfinished) volume in 2004. This one came out in 1993, with the author well into his 70s ...more
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
p. 58: "'I do not have to tell you, my dear,' [Stephen] went on, 'that although I speak in this high ascetic way about money, I do not, never have, despise a competence: it is the relation of superfluity to happiness that is my text, and I am holier than thou only after two hundred pounds a year."

p. 65: "by dividing the [purser's] work between them they accomplished both it and their own specific duties quite well, particularly as the anomalous status of the Surprise meant that her accounts woul
Sean Lee
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rollicking tale. This is perhaps my favourite of the series so far, being mainly set on the sea and with plenty of mishap and adventure to satisfy my sense of fun. Captain Aubrey is wounded (again), Doctor Maturin has to amputate his own toes with a chisel, and the Surprise - the poor old Surprise - is battered from bow sprit to mizzen mast by Volcanic eruption, ice bergs and electrical storms. If that is not enough to make you want to pick up this book, then you deserve to be put ashore on th ...more
Chris Gager
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just picked this up at the local library but I have to finish "The Black Tower" first. I saw "Master and Commander" a few years ago and loved it, and have Mr. O'Brian on my "to-read" list. Maybe I'll "cheat" and read a few pages tonight.

Wednesday morning... I finally got started last night. The writing is excellent of course. I've gone from one great English genre writer(P.D. James) to another. All the nautical jargon is a hoot and mostly indecipherable to me even though I know a bit about sai
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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)
  • Master and Commander
  • Post Captain
  • H. M. S. Surprise
  • 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)

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“For my own part,' said Captain Aubrey, 'I have no notion of disliking a man for his beliefs, above all if he was born with them. I find I can get along very well with Jews or even...' The P of Papists was already formed, and the word was obliged to come out as Pindoos.” 8 likes
“The gentleman was asking what you thought of democracy, sir,’ said Vidal, smiling. ‘Alas I cannot tell you, sir,’ said Stephen, returning the smile. ‘For although it would not be proper to call this barque or vessel a King’s ship except in the largest sense, we nevertheless adhere strictly to the naval tradition which forbids the discussion of religion, women, or politics in our mess. It has been objected that this rule makes for insipidity, which may be so; yet on the other hand it has its uses, since in this case for example it prevents any member from wounding any other gentleman present by saying that he did not think the policy that put Socrates to death and that left Athens prostrate was the highest expression of human wisdom, or by quoting Aristotle’s definition of democracy as mob-rule, the depraved version of a commonwealth.’ ‘Can you suggest a better system?’ asked Dutourd. ‘Sir,’ said Stephen, ‘my words were those of some hypothetical person: where my own views are concerned, tradition seals my mouth. As I have told you, we do not discuss politics at this table.” 5 likes
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