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?