- Paperback: 302 pages
- Publisher: UK General Books (May 1 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0006499279
- ISBN-13: 978-0006499275
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 240 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #156,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Letter Of Marque #12 Paperback – May 1 1997
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'...full of the energy that comes from a writer having struck a vein... Patrick O'Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.' James Hamilton- Paterson 'You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O'Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him.' Kevin Myers, Irish Times 'In a highly competitive field it goes straight to the top. A real first-rater.' Mary Renault 'I never enjoyed a novel about the sea more. It is not only that the author describes the handling of a ship of 1800 with an accuracy that is as comprehensible as it is detailed, a remarkable feat in itself. Mr O'Brian's three chief characters are drawn with no less depth of sympathy than the vessels he describes, a rare achievement save in the greatest writers of this genre. It deserves the widest readership.' Irish Times
About the Author
Patrick O`Brian, one of our greatest contemporary novelists, is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel, Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories have recently been republished by HarperCollins. He has translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and the first volume of Jean Lacouture`s biography of Charles de Gaulle. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime`s contribution to literature. In the same year he was also awarded the CBE. In 1997 he was given an honorary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. Patrick O`Brian died in January 2000.
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Keeping a reader's interest twelve books into a series is no easy feat, but O'Brian makes it look easy. Readers already know both Aubrey and Maturin quite well (having served and sailed with them literally around the world and in dozens of engagements), yet the characters remain fresh as they evolve and grow. Aubrey of course is terribly distraught and troubled after his humilating discharge from the service; even when an opening is made for him to reenter if he only were to ask for a pardon, he adamantly refuses such is the strength of his conviction. To ask for a pardon would be to admit he had done something wrong in the first place. Such characterization is one reason of several why the books are so popular. Another is the exquisite detail of O'Brian's descriptions of naval warfare - in _The Letter of Marque_, Aubrey's luck holds again in an absolutely riveting (and bold) engagement. I hesitate to say more, lest I spoil elements of the plot.
The real heart of the story isn't the battle or the challenges and problems Aubrey faces - it is the closeness between Maturin and Aubrey and the gradual depth of those characters close them: Sophie, Diana Villiers, and Aubrey's children. (The very thought of precious 8-year old twins running around and yelling at one another "you swab!" and "avast, you whoreson!" still puts me in stitches.) These characters and the men with whom Aubrey and Maturin have served with, are becoming more and more real with each successive installment of the series. Highly recommended reading.
I listen to the novels in whatever order I can find the audiobooks available from my public library. I did begin with "Master and Commander" via a purchase of same (and with John Lee), but I cannot afford now to buy my own tapes of every novel so have taken to borrowing same from my library. I listen to the audiobooks on tape cassettes, and do so either while in the yard gardening (a sometimes rather boring job) or whilst driving about town (an always tedious and boring occupation!). Whilst doing the latter I am surely depriving my classical music station of one of its staunchest listeners!
Because I listen to whatever novel I can find at the time, I have been listening in no particular order. One time I may be listening to "Desolation Island" and another time, as of late, it may be "Letter of Marque". And I have by no means listened to more than 4 or 5 books yet. But this presents no real problems as far as comprehension is concerned because I have read the canon twice over. Athough I do have to stop sometimes and figure out just what has happened already and what has yet to happen.
In any event, I am listening to rather than reading O'Brian. And, the professional narrator, as I have already mentioned, must be able to dramatize the books, with different accents, with a range of emotional tones, with dramatic pauses, and so forth. These were not things that I did when I was reading the books silently to myself. As a result, I am more and more taken with O'Brian's mastery. And I often find myself chuckling over some droll bit which did not elicit the same while only reading it. I also often find myself marveling yet again over O'Brian's complete mastery as a writer, as an unabashed story-teller.
The way that he was able to weave all of those 20 books together is simply astounding. It is as remarkable as what we are told of Mozart's scores, namely that they are all of one piece, having seemed to be simply taken down as dictation from on high. (I do know from seeing "21" that Patrick did in fact cross things out, etc.). He cannot have had the whole canon figured out in his mind in advance, and yet it seems that way.
How he is able to bring in and out of the tales various characters, but in ways that are never contrived. His ability to write of naval technical terms so off-handedly and casually, as if it is as second nature to him as they would have been to Jack. And, apparently able to do so without ever having had much personal experience with sailing vessels himself. It often makes me wonder if O'Brian wasn't a 'square-rigged sailor' in some previous incarnation, and now he has somehow tied his conscious mind back into that former life. And, at other times, his writing is pure literary lyricism, such as, in LOM, when he tells us about Steven's state of mind during the days he was semi-unconscious after his fall from the tower. That bit of writing is the best of the best!
So, as it was often put, in the novels, O'Brian's writing "was the completest thing".
UPDATE: I have now spent the last year since this review in buying each set of tapes in their turn and have now listened to the whole 20 novels canon - and all by my very favorite narrator Patrick Tull (excepting Master and Commander).