Patrick O'Brian 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 reprinted by HarperCollins. He 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 awarded the CBE. In 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.
This entry in the Aubrey/Maturin series (see above review of The Surgeon's Mate ) finds Captain Jack Aubrey ``shoved into a temporary command in that rotten old Worcester ,'' a poorly built ship. Worse, he's off to the Mediterranean to join the Royal Navy's endless blockade of the French port of Toulon. Aside from a chance encounter with a French man-of-war that triggers a brief but extremely colorful battle, there is little excitement as HMS Worcester settles in with the other blockading ships, some with crews showing signs of strain from remaining constantly alert but inactive. Second in command at Toulon is Admiral Harte, no friend of Aubrey's (who cuckolded the admiral years ago). Harte dispatches Aubrey on a delicate mission to the politically volatile Ionian coast. Although he has the succor of Stephen Maturin, a seasoned intelligence agent, and Professor Graham, an expert on the region's customs, Aubrey is caught in a complex net of Turkish politics and rivalries. And while Harte seems to offer all reasonable backing for the mission, Aubrey knows that should he fail, the admiral would like nothing better than to throw him to the dogs. (Jan.)
'...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