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Book – Patrick O’Brian – Jack Aubrey novels

Cochrane – The Life & Exploits of a Fighting Captain – Robert Harvey — Both a complementary addition to the Patrick O’Brian naval series, it stands on its own as the biography of an almost unbelievable naval hero. From single ship actions (in one action, Cochrane fought and defeated a ship more than twice his own ship’s size and firepower); to political missions (Cochrane became the admiral of the emergent navy of the west coast of South America, using his tiny fleet to stop Spain from reinforcing its failing colonies), Harvey writes a compelling story. But the stories take on even more interest when you match them with the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Over and over, bits of action or plotting from Cochrane’s life show up in the Aubrey novels (O’Brian openly admitted that he borrowed from Cochrane’s career to build Aubrey’s), and as interesting are where the parallels fail. The descriptions of the stock market swindles and trial are particularly interesting and vivid.

Patrick O’Brian naval series
O’Brian is to the nautical novel what Le Carre is to the spy genre – excelling in their chosen form, while creating literature.  O’Brian combines detailed seamanship with intricate plotting. All the characters develop as  the series progresses, and it’s worth starting the series over  to see how much was foreshadowed in the early books.  The menus, superstitions, medical care, techniques of navigation and rigging all command attention.  Jack Aubrey’s is probably a more typical career than Hornblower’s, and he spends most of the books as a frigate commander or captain. While he takes part in some historical actions, most of the background plots involve the secret war undertaken by Stephen Maturin and his London spymasters.

These novels are  filled with carefully written dialog, often humorous, but ever in the style of the time. The relationships are perfect and filled with tiny details. [e.g., the employment of injured sailors as Jack’s estate workmen, where they keep the home as spit polished and shipshape as any of Jack’s oceangoing homes. ]  Stephen & Jack’s musical diversions are sui generi- a clever yet telling development of friendship under wartime conditions.  The sailing and  action sequences remain the core of this genre and O’Brian never fails – the storms and other trials of Aubrey’s seafaring abilities are ever
novel and retain interest throughout the series.

  • The Commodore
  • Desolation Island
  • The Far Side of the World
  • The Fortune of War
  •  H.M.S. Surprise
  • The Ionian Mission
  • The Letter of Marque
  • Master and Commander
  • The Mauritius Command
  • The Commodore
  • The Fortune of War
  • The Hundred Days


Companion books:

Lobscouse & Spotted Dog : Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
Anne Chotzinoff Grossman, et al / Hardcover / Published 1997

Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O’Brian

Other Nautical fiction