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Story Arcs In the Aubrey-Maturin Canon

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message 1: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (last edited Mar 13, 2010 02:08PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) I am nearly completed with my second read-through of Patrick O'Brian's amazing Aubrey-Maturin series of novels. It strikes me that the twenty completed novels actually 'nest together' in several distinct story arcs; and that each of these arcs are, in and of themselves, connected in a grand roman-fleuve. Anyhow, I have given this notion some thought, and have tried to identify each of the arcs and the novels that they encompass.

It is my contention that the first four novels: Master and Commander, Post Captain, H.M.S. Surprise, and The Mauritius Command are generally self-contained, or stand-alone, novels. Yes, they chronologically follow the preceding; but the plot does not, in any great degree, depend upon the plot of the preceding book.

The first great story arc, in my opinion, starts with Desolation Island and continues through the end of The Reverse of the Medal, and includes seven of the books. It could be said that there is a slight break, if you will, in the arc between the end of The Surgeon's Mate and the start of The Ionian Mission; but I believe it is negligible.

The second great arc starts with The Letter of Marque and concludes with the end of The Wine-Dark Sea and includes five novels.

Finally, the concluding arc contains the last three completed novels; starting with The Commodore and concluding with Blue at the Mizzen. As I have not read the fragment, entitled 21, I cannot speculate on its placement in this last arc.

I would be very interested in your thoughts, comments, and points of agreement or disagreement on my definitions of these arcs.

Cheers! Chris

message 2: by Ross (new)

Ross (rossscann) | 29 comments I think you are correct in the coupling of the books, although the final 3 end with "Blue at the Mizzen" which by coincidence I am listening to currently.
I have read the series 5 times and decided to try the audio versions for a 6th time through. I highly recommend the series read by Simon Vance.

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) Ross wrote: "I think you are correct in the coupling of the books, although the final 3 end with "Blue at the Mizzen" which by coincidence I am listening to currently.
I have read the series 5 times and decide..."

Yeah, I caught that too and made the correction. I wrote this off the top of my head and mixed the last two up. Cheers! Chris

message 4: by Jamie (last edited Mar 14, 2010 08:58AM) (new)

Jamie Collins (jamie_goodreads) | 22 comments Hi Chris, I've made almost two passes of the series. Actually I'm a few books into a slow third pass with the audio books, listening to one a year with my husband during our long drives over the holidays.

I agree with your groupings for the most part. My favorite of the arcs is the one beginning with Desolation Island, but I've always thought of that sequence as ending with The Surgeon's Mate.

My book set includes a copy of the fragment of 21, and I don't think it adds much to the series. I found it rather depressing to see the uncompleted story. The neatest thing about it is that the last few pages are a reproduction of O'Brian's hand-written pages and include a diagram of the seating arrangements of a dinner party. Those dinners are among my favorite scenes of these novels.


message 5: by Alaric (new)

Alaric | 4 comments Quite agree with the last point; it should never have been published - I'm sure POB would not have wanted his uncompleted work to be shown in that way. (Strangely I felt Hornblower and the Crisis was justified, although there was far more story, and the writers worked completely differently.)


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