Wealhtheow's Reviews > Desolation Island

Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian
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's review
Apr 06, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: historical

After some time on land, Captain Aubrey finally gets a ship again--an old ship with a terrible reputation, it's true, but at least it's a ship. With him sail his old friend, Dr. Maturin, and a berth full of convicts. But they rapidly run into problems--gaol fever, then a storm that nearly destroys them, and finally being trapped on an island until they can somehow repair their ship.

The scenes relating to the epidemic aboard ship were enthralling, as was fleeing a Dutchman across a storm that created waves a mile high. Less interesting to me was the subplot between Maturin, the captive spy Mrs. Wogan, and her paramour Haropath. There was something distasteful about the way Maturin regarded and manipulated Mrs. Wogan and Haropath, particularly in that I felt I was supposed to compare his manipulations to hers and exalt in his triumph. I didn't find him any more moral than Mrs. Wogan (I believe I was supposed to, but I'm never sure about authorial intent) and so the disdainful tone the narrator (Tull) took in regards to Mrs. Wogan really caught in my craw. As much as I hate it when Maturin is hurt, it would do him (and my affection for him) good if he were less beloved by the characters and less successful in every endeavor (except lurve, of course--can't forget that those awful hussies won't have sex with him, which just shows how awful they are, I guess). Everyone else seems to really enjoy this novel, so maybe I was just in a bad mood or something. But truthfully, I disliked Haropath, hated that I was supposed to feel sorry for him, and am very glad to see the back of him, his Nice Guy role, and the way Maturin acted around his captives.
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Reading Progress

April 6, 2011 – Started Reading
April 6, 2011 – Shelved
April 6, 2011 – Shelved as: historical
April 6, 2011 –
page 7
2.0% "Ugh, new reader for the audio books--Patrick Tubb is not nearly as good as the last one."
April 15, 2011 –
page 34
9.71% "Stephen makes fun of Jack for not wanting to associate with a criminal lady, but I'm too busy being annoyed at all the special treatment they're already giving her to appreciate his wit. Classism argh!"
April 15, 2011 –
page 34
9.71% ""It surely was but a dismal wreck, no sytheria with coral strands, palm trees, and dusky maidens to fill the horn of plenty, no Crusoe-stores at hand. As I recall, they ate a drowned sea-man's liver.""Very true sir. It was an uncomfortable time, as my granddad remarked. But he loved to look back and contemplate on it.""
April 15, 2011 –
page 41
11.71% "Cost of treating STIs taken out of sailor's pay."
May 13, 2011 –
page 100
28.57% "I love Stephen Maturin, but I find his pawing over Mrs.Wogan's psyche to be skeevy and icky. His ruminations on whether she would take him to bed make me want to cry. It's not that I want him to be faithful to Diana or Jack or whatever, or that I don't want him to have sex--but to contemplate sex with your prisoner is below him."
May 13, 2011 –
page 120
34.29% "The heroic stoicism with which the doctor and his helpers meet the onslaught of an epidemic against which they have no real treatment and little understanding is heart-wrenching. They ran out of medicine, and use colored chalks as placebos now. One of the helpers gets sick, and writes out the progression of his illness in flawless latin as he dies. Gah!"
June 1, 2011 –
page 250
71.43% "Ugh, Stephen just said, "I hope you're not going to join in on the silly weak womanish unphilosophical muling and puling about the cabbage." Stephen using womanly as an insult is just another brick in the wall of feeling that this book has its flaws."
June 3, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Jason Koivu You have an interesting take on this one. Your reading experience was different than mine. I think that can happen quite easily with these novels because our main characters are British, the enemy is France and the sometimes enemy is America. So, if the reader has sympathies with either of the later two, then this series might not set well with them. Also, the character of Maturin is very ambiguous in this volume. Though he is striking a blow against Napoleon, he is doing it at the expense of two relative "innocents". It's hard to get behind Maturin's scheming. Sure, he lets the lovers unite and escape at the end, but he does it so that Wogan will spread false information. It creates a lot of moral gray area, which makes it difficult for the reader to latch on and root for any one person. I didn't have a problem with that, because ambiguity is the stuff of life.

Wealhtheow Yeah, I found it hard to fully cheer on his scheming. I agree that ambiguity is wonderful to find in fiction; if anything, I just wish the text was more overtly ambiguous in regards to its position on Stephen's morality.

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