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Master and Commander

Master and Commander

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Set sail for the read of your life ...Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written. Master and Commander is the first of Patrick O'Brian's now famous Aubrey/Maturin novels, regarded by many as the greatest series of historical novels ever written. It establishes the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey RN and Stephen Maturin, who becomes his secretive ship's surgeon and an intelligence agent. It contains all the action and excitement which could possibly be hoped for in a historical novel, but it also displays the qualities which have put O'Brian far ahead of any of his competitors: his depiction of the detail of life aboard a Nelsonic man-of-war, of weapons, food, conversation and ambience, of the landscape and of the sea. O'Brian's portrayal of each of these is faultless and the sense of period throughout is acute. His power of characterisation is above all masterly.

This brilliant historical novel marked the debut of a writer who grew into one of our greatest novelists ever, the author of what Alan Judd, writing in the Sunday Times, has described as 'the most significant extended story since Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time'.

Essays & WritingLiterary CriticismFiction & PoetryFiction in translationFiction & PoetryHistorical FictionHistorical adventureFiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945Fiction & PoetryShort storiesRays Jazz & Classical MusicRays JazzJazz Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication Date: 07/10/1996 ISBN-13: 9780006499152  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Patrick O'Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. 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 received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.

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From Master and Commander, twenty novels and one unfinished one: this is a series that repays the time spent reading it. These novels develop at a slower pace than some of the others on this list. Indeed, there are some books in the series, where very little happens at all, which you’d think would be the kiss-of-death to naval adventure. The reason they work though – whether it is a violent sea-battle, or peaceful scenes of food and music on the ship – are the characters of Captain Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Those two men are so well-realised, so ‘alive’ and interesting, that I was happy just to know how their lives went, whether good or ill. The period is beautifully researched, though I’m sure over twenty books there will be pedants who can find a mistake or two. The combination of sailing, war and history works incredibly well in O’Brian’s hands.

Conn Iggulden - 11/09/2013


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