Thursday, November 29, 2007


I know, I know, it has been an eternity since I've posted a book review, and that is because of my extremely slow progress in Master and Commander, the first of Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin series. This is not to suggest that I'm not enjoying elements of the book; I am, and I'd like to read more of them eventually. I think Jack and Stephen's characters have a lot of depth, their "opposites-attract" friendship is engaging, and there's a lot of humor in the books. I'm told Post Captain is more of a drawing room story, O'Brien's tribute to Jane Austen; his eloquence and wit certainly qualify him for such a task.

However, Master and Commander has not captured my attention in the way the Hornblower novels did. It's pleasant enough while reading, but then I set it down and lose interest. As Ickie mentioned in his review, O'Brien's novels are less steamlined than Forester's. Or as my dad put it when we were discussing the books on the phone recently, "What they really need is a good editor."

I'm sure you O'Brien fans are enraged at this suggestion, but there's something about the books that don't quite do it for me. It's not necessarily the verbosity that bothers me, and I can appreciate O'Brien's desire to wax romantic or educate the reader on the minutia of naval life, and the now-and-then action scenes do excite, but it's so slow-going plotwise. In fact, I feel the book has everything necessary (artful language, humor, interesting characters and relationships) except a cohesive plot. The Sophie goes out on cruises, returns, out and back, and to me the chain of events read more like a memoir than a purposeful plot.

All the same, the first book is worth reading, just don't expect it to zip along like other straight-up adventure stories. It is very different from the film, which I enjoyed immensely.


Manalive said...

That's actually what I like about the Aubrey/Maturin books - they're so understated! I think of them as portraits of the characters and the time rather than a swashbuckling adventure. I think many readers identify most with Maturin, not only because he's landlubber, but also because the best way to read the books is through Maturin's observant and thoughtful eyes. The battles and plot are the circumstances which show us the characters. What makes me unable to put down an Aubrey/Maturin book is the suspense of waiting to see how characters respond to their circumstances and how the relationships are affected by the circumstances.


Watoosa said...


I agree about identifying more with Maturin. Jack is such a big, loud frat boy with a crass sense of humor, so it's fun to laugh at him. On the other hand, it's funny when Maturin gets obsessed with insects, etc. I love his geeky enthusiasm and ability to speak just about any language.

I also find the Irish-Brit dynamic interesting.