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Blue at the Mizzen [MP3 CD]

Patrick O'Brian , Simon Vance
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 1 2007 Aubrey-Maturin (Book 20)
The brand new Aubrey-Maturin novel, the twentieth in this classic series. This is the twentieth book in Patrick O,Brian,s highly acclaimed, bestselling series chronicling the adventures of lucky Jack Aubrey and his best friend Stephen Maturin, part ship,s doctor, part secret agent. The novel,s stirring action follows on from that of The Hundred Days. Napoleon,s hundred days of freedom and his renewed threat to Europe have ended at Waterloo and Aubrey has finally, as the title suggests, become a blue level admiral. He and Maturin have - at last - set sail on their much postponed mission to Chile. Vivid with the salty tang of life at sea, O,Brian,s writing is as powerful as ever whether he writes of naval hierarchies, night-actions or the most celebrated fictional friendship since that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Blue at the Mizzen also brings alive the sights and sounds of revolutionary South America in a story as exciting as any O,Brian has written.

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From Amazon

Almost three decades after commencing his maritime epic with Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian is still at it. The 20th episode, Blue at the Mizzen, is another swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, complete with romantic escapades from smoggy London to Sierra Leone, diplomacy, espionage, the intricacies of warfare, and imperial brinksmanship. As always, these events are bound up in the ongoing friendship between two officers of the Royal Navy. Jack Aubrey is the naval captain, bold yet compassionate, innovative yet cautious, as fearless in war as he is bumbling in affairs of the heart and household. His boon companion Stephen Maturin is the ship's surgeon--and additionally a spy for the British government, a wealthy Catalonian aristocrat, a doting Irish father, and an avid naturalist.

That may sound like a lot to keep track of. However, it's not necessary to carry around a scorecard or ship's roster while reading Blue at the Mizzen. The ostensible issue is whether Jack will finally be promoted to Admiral of the Blue. But long before he hears any word from the Napoleonic era's equivalent of Personnel, he loses half his crew to desertion, his ship undergoes a disastrous collision, and the entire company comes close to perishing in the ice-choked seas off Cape Horn. Meanwhile, the widowed Maturin issues a surprising proposal of marriage to a beautiful, mud-bespattered fellow naturalist while trekking through an African mangrove swamp. (The two lovebirds happen to be searching for a rare variant of Caprimulgus longipennis, the long-tailed nightjar, which they hope to surprise in full mating plumage.)

Still, this is hardly a plot-driven novel. O'Brian takes time to get anywhere, and invariably enjoys the journey more than the arrival. So even as we get constant hints of the climax to come--Jack's spectacular naval action on behalf of the infant Republic of Chile--we don't mind hearing about the nuances of shipboard existence or the secret life of the white-faced tree duck. We're treated, for example, to this snippet about managed care, circa 1816:

Poll, Maggie and a horse-leech from the starboard watch have been administering enemas to the many, many cases of gross surfeit that have now replaced the frostbites, torsions, and debility of the recent past, the very recent past. Strong, fresh, seal-meat has not its equal for upsetting the seaman's metabolism: he is much better kept on biscuits, Essex cheese, and a very little well-seethed salt pork--kept on short commons.
And we're grateful! We can only hope that the elderly author will favor us with at least one more novel, so that his avid followers can avoid their own form of short commons. Life without Aubrey and Maturin would be a deprivation indeed. --Andrew Himes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

With bittersweet pleasure, readers may deem this 20thAand possibly finalAinstallment in O'Brian's highly regarded series featuring Capt. Jack Aubrey of the English Royal Navy and Stephen Maturin, ship's doctor, the best of the lot. Post-Waterloo, the frigate Surprise sets sail to South America as a "hydrographical vessel," ostensibly to survey the Straits of Magellan and Chile's southern coast. In fact, Jack and Stephen are to offer help to the Chilean rebels trying to break free from Spain. On their way down the coast of West Africa, romance blossoms for both men. Jack's liaison (with his cousin, Isobel, in Gibraltar) is brief, but widower Stephen's passion for Christine Wood, a naturalist who has been his correspondent for some time, turns serious in Sierra Leone. The doctor's correspondence with Christine begins with accounts of his explorations in Africa and South America, referencing, say, an "anomalous nuthatch" or the "etymology of doldrum," but they're quite wonderful love letters, functioning as a chorus to the action. Once in Chile, despite the conflict between opposing rebel camps, Jack leads a successful raid on a treasure fort in Valdivia, followed by the seizure of a Peruvian frigate to be turned over to the Chilean rebels, triumphs that reap him a just reward; at that point, readers will learn the title's significance. Throughout, familiar characters abound and entertain, especially the amusingly nasty steward, Killick, and Stephen's "loblolly girl" (nurse), Poll Skeeping. And finally, there is Horatio Hanson, bastard son of a nobleman, who comes on board as a midshipman, a dashing young foil for the ship's elders. O'Brian has rightfully been compared to Jane Austen, but one wonders if even she would have done justice to "those extraordinary hollow dwellings, sometimes as beautiful as they were comfortless." To use one of Stephen's favorite expressions, "What joy!" Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Nov.) FYI: Over three million copies of the books in the Aubrey/Maturin series have been sold. O'Brian will make two mid-November appearances in New York, one already sold out. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By gilly8
Format:Audio Cassette
I am writing this several years now after "Blue at the Mizzen" was released. It seemed shortly thereafter I heard that the author Patrick O'Brian, then in his 90's, had died. I remember actually having tears at the thought that Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin would be on the sea forever, and never again on land and we readers of theirs would never know anything about them again. Since then the publisher released a short chapter-long handwritten book of what would have been Mr O'Brian's first few pages of his next book...but I haven't yet been able to read it yet. Also the movie with Russell Crowe came out, a combination of a few of the books put together and not too bad at all. If you love a book, I think you always fear when you hear a movie is going to be made!! Overall, as most of the other reviewers here have said, it is a wonderful series that I doubt will ever be duplicated. If anyone is reading any of these reviews and has not read the series, you MUST start with "Master and Commander" and go in order for it to make sense, this series builds upon each prior book. It is, as others have said, one very long book. In fact, it is 20 years or so of the lives of these two men whom we come to care so much about, and who come to feel so real to us. I must add, I have read Aubrey was based on a real person, I've been looking but can't locate the name right now. I know the details and research O'Brian put into the books are true to life. It was a terribly hard life, and not for the weak, whether you were a common sailor or an officer. Thank you Patrick O'Brian, for the pleasure in the reading, and for the great amount of information about this time in history,that you have saved and passed on to us and to future generations!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I'm reviewing, here, the entirety of O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, because I consider it to be essentially one novel.
The first, and most astonishing, strength of this series is in its characterization. Not only are the contrasting, yet inseparable, friends Jack and Stephen believable, appealing, vividly human characters, but they change realistically through time. To the reader, they appear as "real" people with "real" lives, perhaps more so than some of the the flesh and blood ephemera around us. The secondary characters, too, shine -- Killick is priceless.
Research, of course, is O'Brian's other great strength. It's not only the ships, about which he seems to know everything. There's no aspect of the period -- food, dialect, religion, music -- in which he does not seem to be well versed. And he conveys this information to the reader in interesting ways, rather than encumbering the text with massive info-dumps.
One often overlooked bright spot in this series is its humor. Too often historical fiction has a self-consciously grim quality. O'Brian can be grim -- crushingly depressing, in fact --but... "Swiving Monachorum".
Action and battles are not, strangely, this series' strongest point. When we get them, they're great, but too often they are skipped over or told in a distant third-person viewpoint. But the worst here is still very good indeed.
I would recommend reading all of these, in order, starting with the first one, right away, as soon as you possibly can. It's true that The Hundred Days marks a low point -- I agree with the reviewers who cite O'Brian's loss of his wife as the reason -- but Blue at the Mizzen, under which I've posted this review, marks a triumphant return of the author's powers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars End of the Adventure Feb. 19 2002
The end of a great book always produces a letdown for me so it was a double whammy to realize as I turned the last page of Blue at the Mizzen that it was book-series-match. Reflecting back on the 20 Aubrey-Maturin books that I had read and the timeless quality of the characters, plots and historical background that brought these books to life only deepened my depression. And when I considered the tracks that O'Brian artfully laid down in this book to carry him into yet additional Aubrey-Maturin books--I decided that I needed a brandy. Patrick O'Brian is undoubtedly one of the few true masters of historical fiction and a polymath with incredible literary talent.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent saga Sept. 28 2000
Patrick O'Brien once described the Napoleonic Wars as "the Troy tales" of the British people, playing as central a role in the national myth as the Trojan wars did for the ancient Greeks. His incomparable series, based on the vicissitudes of the professional career of Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy, who rises from humble Lieutenant to Admiral (with one reduction to the ranks and a court martial and public disgrace along the way), has become a cult among his many admirers.
There are three main reasons for this. First, the naval lore and action are quite as good and compelling as the battles of C S Foresters's Horatio Hornblower. Second, these are real novels, more than rattling good action yarns, with complex characters, credible women (Diana Villiers is a grand creation) and a genuine historical sense of life ashore that reveal O'Brien's admiration for Jane Austen. Above all, the series is given life and depth and tension by the heart of the books, the friendship between Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the half-Irish, half-Catalan, who is naturalist, physician, musician and spy.
At times, the reader is lost in the world of Charles Darwin and the voyage of 'The Beagle' as Maturin delights in the flora and fauna that come the way of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Antarctic, the South Pacific and the Newfoundland Banks. At times, one is lost in a world of culinary history, or of secret intelligence, or primitive surgery. The French enemies are drawn with intelligent sympathy, and the American naval adversaries treated with proper respect.
To embark upon the long voyage of this marvellous series is to plunge into a compelling and enchanting world.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Blue at the Mizzen
Mr. O'Brian made his scholarship eminently readable; without his novels, I would never have understood the term "Mizzen" or the full meaning of personal integrity in a man... Read more
Published 13 months ago by David MaY
5.0 out of 5 stars The chances when at Peace
As close to eroticism as Patrick O'Brian is going to get. Also, many more dinners with 6 removes. Once more for the Horn.
Published 17 months ago by Arnold Wiren
5.0 out of 5 stars Farewell Admiral Aubrey and Dr. Maturin
Thanks to the late Patrick O'Brian for wrapping up the series on an up note. I grew as a mariner with each book in this series from a landlubber to...maybe a ships boy. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2001 by "arrowears"
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful way to say goodby.
Patrick O'brien has left this world. His books and charachters have stayed at the turn of the century long ago and far away. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2000 by david milne
1.0 out of 5 stars Return the CD and buy the book instead
I've read the whole A/M series at least 3-4 times and just can't get enough of it. Commuting 45 minutes each way to work and back daily, I rent a lot of CD/books from a... Read more
Published on May 31 2000 by rentscds
2.0 out of 5 stars Forgot to describe the action
I have read,and bought all of the series. I was disappointed, when comparing with the others in the series. Read more
Published on April 12 2000 by L B Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars "...with fair winds and flowing sheets..."
I picture O'Brian near the end, facing his mortality, wrestling ghosts from WWII, writing in a lonely room at Trinity College in his adopted Ireland, finishing what surely was a... Read more
Published on March 23 2000 by William Charles Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars RED SKY
Another great sea story. Goodby my friends. May you allways have the weather gauge.
Published on March 19 2000 by TODD R CASPELL
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Final Capter
Although Blue at the Mizzen is readable on its own, it is perhaps an injustice to it to do so. The book, as with any one of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, is merely... Read more
Published on March 7 2000 by J. Michael Stevenson
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