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 novel, the ninth installment of 20 in what is certainly the greatest series about the British Navy ever writtenÄindeed, one of the most successful of its magnitude ever written in any genreÄis not well served by its reader. Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actor Pigott-Smith has an appropriately English accent, but his characters' voices lack consistency and sensitivity to the subtleties of O'Brian's pen. In this recording, the swashbuckling Captain Aubrey and the ironic, stealthy Stephen Maturin, his ship's surgeon, do not step onto the stage of the Napoleonic wars as the nuanced heroes O'Brian's readers have come to know over three decades. Pigott-Smith's Maturin lacks compassion; his Aubrey lacks intelligence. The narrative turns from nefarious intrigues in Malta to an amazing mission in the Red Sea and back again, but the drama is conveyed with neither satisfying variation of tempo nor ringing cadence. While O'Brian's devotees will find all the naval and historical details they usually delight in, they will despair at hearing how this production tramples upon his genius in portraying shockingly real characters in an utterly foreign, far-off time. Based on the Norton hardcover. (Nov. 2000) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
'...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