Second in the Aubrey/Maturin novels, _Post Captain_ gives great thrills
Written: Jun 7, 2012 (Updated Jun 7, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Plenty of suspense. Alas, very little detail on the skullduggery parts.
Cons:Keep a dictionary or one of the guides to the series handy.
The Bottom Line: Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin get involved with women, a cursed ship and dancing bears.
One series that I have always wanted to read has been the novels of Patrick O'Brian, which follow the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin, two officers in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century.
After his triumphs commanding the HMS Sophie, Captain Jack Aubrey returns to England expecting triumph and a plump cash payout from the Admiralty. He takes a lease on a house, spends a bit -- well, a lot -- and eagerly awaits a good command and a promotion to a post captain. That new commission will put him on a fast track to eventually becoming an admiral. Namely, Jack is flying high.
Not quite so for his friend Stephen Maturin. Stephen is of a much more melancholic bent than Jack, and knows that things can not possibly be that good. But he keeps his spirits up, and along with Jack, meet two young women of a neighboring family. Sophia Williams is a beautiful girl, a bit naive, but intelligent and loving, and Jack is soon enthralled with her, and hopes to marry her, despite her mother's view that he is a fortune-hunter. For Stephen, the situation is a bit more complicated -- Diana is a widow, returned from India, and has plenty of her own scars on her soul. And Stephen is far more cautious than Jack, and unwilling to gamble everything at once.
While Jack is running up bills, Stephen is involved in more convert actitivites for the government. And when the devastating blow lands on Jack, that he is not to be made post-captain, and even worse that there is to be no prize money, Jack finds himself neck deep in trouble. He's evading the duns, and throws his lot in with Jack on a mission to France -- a mission that soon goes badly when Napoleon declares war and the pair are on the run.
It's quite an adventure, struggling to get out of France, and a journey through Spain, and returning to England. Evading the duns and the very real possibility of debtor's prison, Jack gets two very unexpected offers -- one is to become a privateer and raid enemy shipping, and the other is to take command of the HMS Polychrest, a ship that is termed the 'Carpenter's Mistake' by the rest of the fleet...
While the early part of the book is rather slow moving, the second picked up very quickly, and moved along with a brisk pace. Where Patrick O'Brian shines as an author is in his depictions of life in the Royal Navy and the details of seamanship. While I did have some trouble untangling some of the terms, this was only momentary as the real story lays within the interaction between the officers and crew, and when O'Brian gets into scenes of action and battle, the story is so real you can smell the salt air and gunpowder.
I really enjoyed this novel, and managed to work my way through it despite the problems with some of the vocabulary. Jack and Stephen are perfect foils for each other, one impulsive and energetic, while the other is much more introspective. Also, O'Brian gives a rich view of the Regency period in English history -- the novel is set about 1804 -- and his knowledge of the time and place, with manners, conversation, social skills and what would be expected of each person.
As I was reading, I also kept a copy of Dean King's A Sea of Words handy for untangling some of the more obscure nautical and sailing terms.
Along with the narrative, there are two inserts of colour plates drawn from period sources, and maps on the flypapers to show where the story is taking place.
I do recommend that the first book in the series be read, Master and Commander, as there is a great deal of information that is in there and refered back to in Post Captain. This is an excellent entry in the series so far, and I am looking forward to the next volume, HMS Surprise. Overall, this gets an five star rating, and a strong hint to find this author for yourself.
*The Folio Society is a small press that produces high quality books in England since the late 1940's. They are slip covered, lavishly illustrated and alas, not cheap, especially for their limited editions. But they do give a certain amount of satisfaction. You can find out more at www.foliosociety.com
The Aubrey/Maturin Novels by Patrick O'Brian:
Book 1: Master and Commander
Book 2: Post Captain -- you are here
1971, 2009; The Folio Society
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