I walk the neighborhood these days, lost at sea.
In the best way. I’m still listening to my eternal love, the audiobook editions of the Patrick O’Brian novels starring Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin.
Historical fiction involving boatloads of British sailors, circa 1805? Spies, intrigues, ship life, friendship, Boccherini played on a squawking cello?
Can’t get enough!
It is as if Jane Austen left Hampshire for a British man o’ war.
I’m up to novel number 15, The Wine-Dark Sea. I don’t ever want this series to end, so guess what: it won’t. When the 21st novel ends, I plan to start over, like I’m painting the Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t ever want to leave these books.
They’re just so good. Everything about them. The narrator, Patrick Tull, has an astonishing ability to create voices that are distinct and memorable over the course of 15 novels. Captain Aubrey’s steward, a rascally grouch with the excellent name of Preserved Killick, sounds the same now as he did in the first novel of the series, Master and Commander. The gun room, the quarter deck, the fo’c’sle—I’ve got the hang of the elaborate rules about who’s allowed where.
Sailors love all the talk of navigation and rigging and sextants and soundings. I just let it wash over me, though I do have at this point a decent understanding of what the HMS Surprise looks like.
Women appear every now and then to show up these men who are at home at sea but are at sea when at home.
I’ve suggested this series before, but I bring it up now because these novels are providing me with an escape that is hard to find. I know there are O’Brian fans out there—I’m hoping to press a few more of you into service of these books that have left me by turns laughing, crying, rooting hard for the yellow-haired captain, and shaking my head at the way Patrick O’Brian delves into a faraway time.
Book 1, Master and Commander, is the place to start, on Audible.com. Set sail, and who knows? You may end up shipwrecked on a raft in the Pacific, low on water. What happens next?