Blue at the Mizzen (Vol. Book 20) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels) Hardcover – 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Sept. 11 2013 by David MaY
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 on May 24 2013 by Arnold Wiren
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. Read morePublished on Feb. 19 2002 by David Owen
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 morePublished on Feb. 20 2001
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 morePublished on Oct. 2 2000 by david milne
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 morePublished on May 31 2000 by rentscds
I have read,and bought all of the series. I was disappointed, when comparing with the others in the series. Read morePublished on April 12 2000 by L B Thomas
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 morePublished on March 23 2000 by William Charles Daniel
Another great sea story. Goodby my friends. May you allways have the weather gauge.Published on March 19 2000 by TODD R CASPELL