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Jack Aubrey Commands: An Historical Companion to the Naval World of Patrick O'Brian [Hardcover]

Brian Lavery , Peter Weir
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 2003
No fiction writer of modern times has captured the world of wooden walls, broadsides, and the press gang as successfully as Patrick O’Brian. The twenty books in the O’Brian canon featuring the lives and adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his confidant, naval surgeon Stephen Maturin, have been lauded across the world for their blend of classic storytelling, historical accuracy, and inspired characterizations. In this new work respected naval historian Brian Lavery explores the historical framework of the O’Brian novels by examining the facts behind the grand narrative and putting the key episodes in context while detailing naval life in the era of Nelson and Napoleon. With well over a hundred illustrations, the book presents contemporary plans, drawings, engravings, maps, and photographs of museum artifacts that have inspired age-of-sail novelists and moviemakers. Introducing the book is a foreword by Peter Weir, director of the upcoming film of O’Brian’s novel Master and Commander. Avid age-of-sail fans will not want to miss this colorfully detailed complement to the O’Brian series.

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About the Author

Brian Lavery is Curator of Ship Technology at the National Maritime Museum. His earlier title for Conway Maritime Press, Nelson's Navy, The Ships, Men and Organisation has sold over 45,000 copies as an illustrated hardback. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent material, mediocre editing . . . Feb. 1 2004
Format:Hardcover
If you're a fan of nautical adventure, this is definitely a book you want to own. Lavery, a greatly respected naval historian, has written several earlier volumes on the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic period (including the highly regarded _Nelson's Navy_), and he was also one of the principal technical advisors on Peter Weir's film, MASTER AND COMMANDER. (Weir, in fact, provides a glowing Foreword.) This heavily illustrated volume tries to cover all the bases, organizing its topics into chapters like "The World of the Seaman," "The Ships," "Officers," "The Lower Deck," "Techniques," and so on. Technical information is provided but is kept under control so as not to frighten the novice, and he quotes heavily from early Victorian memoires, biographies, and histories -- and also from the works of Marryat, Forester, O'Brian, and even Jane Austen's _Persuasion_. On the other hand, Lavery, unfortunately, was not well served by his editor, copyeditor, or proofreader. (Having worked for them myself in the past, as a freelance editor, I know Naval Institute Press is capable of far better support work.) There often are several typos, omitted words, and confusing references on a single page. There also are a number of incorrect or incomplete source citations and at least one mislabeled diagram (on page 104). Lavery also is prone to frequent and unnecessary repetition in his discourse, especially in explaining points of shiphandling and other technical matters. Finally, the index and the bibliography are rather amateurishly organized. But on the *other* other hand, I finally understand catharpins!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Lavery is the curator of ship technology at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. In this text, he explores the links between naval facts and naval fiction<-->particularly the works of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester<-->showing how the life of real naval heroes compares to that portrayed in novels and films. The text is fully illustrated throughout in b&w and color, and includes a foreword by Peter Weir, director of the 2003 film, , starring Russell Crowe in the role of Jack Aubrey.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
136 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid primer on the Royal Navy of Jack Aubrey Nov. 2 2003
By Bruce Trinque - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brian Lavery is the author of the thoroughly excellent "Nelson's Navy", praised by Patrick O'Brian as the most nearly royal road to knowledge about the Royal Navy of the 1793-18115 period he knew. Lavery's new book, "Jack Aubrey's Commands: A Historical Companion to the Naval World of Patrick O'Brian", is quite evidently tied to the release of the film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World", based upon O'Brian's novels -- the book's foreword, after all, was written by Peter Weir. the director of the movie. But the book is at least as much directed towards the readers of O'Brian's novels as to viewers of the film (and more so, I would argue), and it should be equally enticing for those simply interested in that historical era. To be sure, Lavery's "Nelson's Navy" is an excellent reference book that contains far more detailed information than the present work, but "Jack Aubrey's Commands" is written in a more approachable style for the general reader, with a text that is meant to be read as a continuous whole, rather than as a collection of details and essays. Its particular strength lies in the numerous and lengthy quotes taken from contemporary sources, making the narrative more vivid and easy to relate to a living world long vanished. In this regard, "Jack Aubrey's Commands" serves as a companion to Lavery's own "Nelson's Navy" as well as to the novels of Patrick O'Brian.
Someone recently asked me whether it was better to buy "Jack Aubrey's Commands" or Richard O'Neill's recent "Patrick O'Brian's Navy: Jack Aubrey's World". Putting the obvious answer of "Buy both of them!" aside (and assuming that the reader already has Lavery's "Nelson's Navy" or feels that this earlier work is as yet too formidable to approach), then my recommendation would depend on the reader's personal preferences. Both volumes contain a good detail of information about the Royal Navy of Jack Aubrey's era. O'Neill's book is especially strong in the area of excellent period illustrations, Lavery's in the direction of narrative strength. The first is perhaps best for repeated browsing, the latter for a straightforward read.
61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent material, mediocre editing . . . Feb. 1 2004
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you're a fan of nautical adventure, this is definitely a book you want to own. Lavery, a greatly respected naval historian, has written several earlier volumes on the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic period (including the highly regarded _Nelson's Navy_), and he was also one of the principal technical advisors on Peter Weir's film, MASTER AND COMMANDER. (Weir, in fact, provides a glowing Foreword.) This heavily illustrated volume tries to cover all the bases, organizing its topics into chapters like "The World of the Seaman," "The Ships," "Officers," "The Lower Deck," "Techniques," and so on. Technical information is provided but is kept under control so as not to frighten the novice, and he quotes heavily from early Victorian memoires, biographies, and histories -- and also from the works of Marryat, Forester, O'Brian, and even Jane Austen's _Persuasion_. On the other hand, Lavery, unfortunately, was not well served by his editor, copyeditor, or proofreader. (Having worked for them myself in the past, as a freelance editor, I know Naval Institute Press is capable of far better support work.) There often are several typos, omitted words, and confusing references on a single page. There also are a number of incorrect or incomplete source citations and at least one mislabeled diagram (on page 104). Lavery also is prone to frequent and unnecessary repetition in his discourse, especially in explaining points of shiphandling and other technical matters. Finally, the index and the bibliography are rather amateurishly organized. But on the *other* other hand, I finally understand catharpins!
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Re-living our naval past June 21 2008
By Selwyn M. Owen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Being a descendant of an Admiral of the Fleet I have always been intested in naval life in the days of sail and wondered what the balance was between wonderful and privileged adventure and virtual slavery below decks. "Jack Aubrey Commands" gives you all the answers!I am not a great fan of Patrick O'Brian's books, but am glad he wrote them. This book, by Brian Lavery, is well-researched, suitably illustrated and enjoyable reading for well-informed naval historians or schoolboys who have an interest in the subject.
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