Wednesday, September 5, 2007


If Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin were real men and the things that have happened to them were real, I would be amazed to learn they were both still alive after such experiences. This latest volume, The Wine-Dark Sea, is a fine example of the multitude of rather crazy things that happen to the two friends.

The book begins with a volcanic eruption and just gets more bizarre. Jack goes through the open-boat ride from hell; Stephen must trudge over the Andes to get away from a botched coup. It's hilarious, simply because the situations are rather far-fetched. Of course, they aren't far-fetched for these two men, which is what makes O'Brian's novels so good. You expect this kind of stuff from Stephen and Jack.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


People have discussed the power of women since time immemorial. Often enough, it's been discussed and described in books. Nowhere, not even in the Iliad, have I seen the power of a woman so aptly shown as I have in The Truelove, number 15 in the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I have always had the sense that the ships that were commanded by the navies of the world, and still are for that matter, were their own "ungodly" monasteries. Think about the ships of the Napoleonic Era, such as are described in O'Brian's books. They were devoid of femininity in nearly every way, with a few exceptions. Most of the captains prescribed to Jack Aubrey's way of thinking -- women onboard were unlucky. And he certainly knew from experience, having been turned "before the mast" for bringing a woman onboard when he was just a youngster, a midshipman. Nowhere was that more apparent than in this latest volume.

Echoing Jack's own misadventures, a midshipman of his own, Oakes, smuggles a young convict transported to New South Wales aboard the ship and is thus forced to marry her, much to Jack's chagrin (and demands). This starts off a war of Trojan proportions among the officers of Jack's ship. Though, of course, this is just one small ship and one small, not-so-ravishing a woman, I say Trojan because of the number of different "protagonists," and the factions that it creates on the ship. All the while, this young lady is practically oblivious to her power. Isn't that how it often is? The ones with all the power have no idea that they hold it, let alone wield it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Last year, while leading a tour through England, my students and I had the opportunity to see a powerful, two-man play: The Woman in Black. I had never heard of it, and before leaving, I endeavored to do a little research. I found that the play was an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Susan Hill. The play was magnificent. It was so terribly frightening and thought-provoking that it had my three teenaged students talking about it for days afterwards.
I finally was able to find the novel and read it, more than a year after seeing the play. As I read, I could see the play replaying (no pun intended) in my head, mentally comparing one to the other. I know it appears that I read a lot of literature that has been interpreted visually, but I usually don't. Fortunately, I'm equipped with a vivid imagination, and it doesn't always take a movie to make me "see" the story. Still, when you have, you can't help it.

The novel was short, just 160 pages, and it was very stream-of-consciousness, which I normally don't like. But the story was also very personal and once again frightening. One of the nights I was reading it, I had to put it down because it was late, and I was more than a little scared.

Still, the climax of the novel was nothing compared to the climax of the play, and even a year later, I remember the screaming, the train, and the fear that the play induced in us all.


While there were no messages in bottles in the Nutmeg of Consolation, there was certainly a lot of intrigue, most of it, as usual, on Stephen Maturin's part. After being shipwrecked in the last installment of the series, Aubrey and Maturin were about to set sail on a small ship built from the wreckage of the Diane. Unfortunately, they are caught unawares and that chance fades.
Maturin, once again displaying both his cunning and his tenderness, he contrives their escape after meeting a group of children.

The men of the Diane have to endure plenty, including learning the ways of a new ship, the Nutmeg, pox-infected islands, and drunkenness (which is of course normal).

Fans of the series will be delighted to see the return of Maturin's gentle and giant lob-lolly boy, Padeen, who was sent to the Australia for breaking into an apothecary's. His return is short, since it happens near the end of the novel, but it promises to extend into the next book, if not the remainder of the series.

Often in my old book blog, I compared the movie with the books. I have never quite understood why people were so against Russell Crowe playing Aubrey. I think he was perfect for the part. As was Paul Bettany as Maturin. In fact, and here's my main point, I believe that the men cast as O'Brian's wonderful characters, from Aubrey to old Joe Plaice, were perfectly cast, so much so that because O'Brian rarely describes his characters in great physical detail, I see the men who played them onscreen as I read, and I have no problem with that. When I read the scenes with Padeen, I once again saw John DeSantis, the giant of a man who played him in the film.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I have finally digested this wonderful ending to the most magical series I have ever read, no pun intended at all -- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Once again, I was unable to read it slowly. I finished it the Saturday it was released. I was teary from the beginning. Hell, I cry at Disney movies. Dudley's response to leaving Harry behind started it all for me. It was unexpected and touching, a brief glimpse at what Harry might have done for his cousin if given the chance.

After reading the Half-Blood Prince, I had a lot of ideas about who was going to die and how, including Harry. My theory was he was a Horcrux, and I was right. Thankfully, the other part of my prediction -- that Harry was going to die because of it -- did not come to fruition. Harry was going to die, but I thank JK Rowling that she saw it in her heart to spare him.

On to other deaths. I was very upset with Fred's death, and with Lupin's and Tonks', especially after the birth of Teddy. How like Harry Teddy Lupin became. Thank God he had Harry for a godfather. And the most surprising of all was Snape's, although I knew it was inevitable. The resolution of Snape and Harry was so sad that I cried while describing it to a friend. I felt so stupid that I didn't figure out what truly led to Snape's redemption -- love. How unlike him. And yet it totally made sense. Even now, as I write this, tears well up in my eyes. Of everything that happened in the book, the scenes at the end with Snape and the resolution of his story will stick with me for a long time.

And the epilogue was one of the sweetest things I have ever read. To think that Harry named one of his boys Albus Severus brings tears to my eyes yet again. When Harry referred to Snape as "probably the bravest man I've ever known," I broke down. What a wonderfully heartening way to end such an epic story.

My only gripe was that we didn't learn more about what happened with the rest of the survivors except Percy, Neville, Malfoy, and Teddy Lupin. What happened to everyone else? No fair! However, I did read somewhere that Rowling has mentioned she will work on a Harry Potter encyclopedia of sorts which might detail more information about other characters. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Monday, July 16, 2007


On my old book blog, I chronicled my reading of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I have recently finished the 13th book, The Thirteen-Gun Salute, after waiting first, for the money to buy it, and second, for the bookstore to have it in stock.
The 12th book ended with Jack and Stephen on the Surprise as a letter of marque, or privateer, Jack having been struck off the list of captains. This book told of his return to the Naval List, which I was dying to happen, and how he and Stephen go to the South China Sea to meet with a sultan and form a treaty.

It was so nice, after a couple of months of a break, to be back with my two new favorite characters! I missed Aubrey and Maturin and O'Brian's writing. What a pleasure it was to travel with the two of them again. It was an interesting voyage. Of course, Aubrey and Maturin are such strong characters, but more dimensions than most other writers. O'Brian has to be my favorite writer right now. I thoroughly enjoy him and all his work I've read.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


It's something all book lover's wish to do, isn't it? Don't we all wish we could be a part of Emma's world, or Harry's? What about Jane Eyre's? For Thursday Next, it's possible. In The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, 80s England is a world where literature is all the rage, the Crimean War is still being fought, and Winston Churchill's never been heard of. People can stop time, move about in it, and even jump in and out of books.

Next, an operative in a government agency that deals with literary crimes and has a time-hopping father, an inventor uncle named Mycroft, and a one-legged ex-boyfriend with whom she's still in love. It's a great mess, and by the end of the book, everything gets sorted out. Everything.

This book was recommended to me by my friend Shannon, who's literary advice I pretty much trust on blind faith. She was the one, after all, who told me to quit bitching about reading levels and try Harry Potter. Hooray for Shannon and hooray for Thursday Next. Can't wait for payday to got another Next novel.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I finished Mayflower yesterday on the way home from work. Thank God for public transportation. Nathaniel Philbrick, the author, made a point of discussing the difference between myth and reality when it comes to the Pilgrims. We grow up thinking they were oppressed by their country, misunderstood because they desired a return to "purer" spirituality, and that they were simply handed the plantation of Plymouth. How wrong we are, to an extent at least.

The original Pilgrims maintained a level of understanding that their children and grandchildren forgot. It was sad to read how inferior their understanding of the lives of the Indians was. If you really want to understand what the Pilgrims were truly like, read this book. It was quite interesting.

Friday, June 8, 2007


I decided to read this book because my beloved grandmother, who passed away two years ago, is a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden, who are often major players in retellings of the Mayflower story. I'm only halfway through the book, but I have already learned that Priscilla did not come over on the original voyage, but was part of a later arrival of Pilgrims who bolstered the population after more than half the original travelers had perished from the elements. Philbrick's writing style is much more accessible than most non-fiction writers. He tells his story as though he's giving it through oral tradition, which seems appropriate given the era he's writing about.

So far, I have enjoyed it immensely, and it has been hard to put down. I want to know what happens to the Pilgrims, especially now that in, at this point in the narrative, the Pilgrims are on the brink of war with the Natives.