Patrick O’Brian


Post Captain

Aubrey/Maturin series, Book 2


Highly original. The characters don’t think and act like twentieth century ones – O’Brian has really made an effort to offer people from a different age and mindset. Their values are so different. The heroes do foolish things at times, they have good and bad luck, it’s pretty unpredictable (although you’re sure that somewhere Jack Aubrey will win some sea battles with courage and skill). How the hell would I know, but he seems to know what he’s talking about with the minutiae of 18th century ships, and the mores and attitudes of a range of people. I think I read somewhere that he’s done a lot of research into the (often very well documented) battles of the time, and said that all the sort of adventures and actions Jack Aubrey experiences did actually happen – but they just never would have all happened to the one guy.


Interesting narrative style too – more like a TV show which just cuts to new scenes without bothering to link them. One second Maturin’s home writing in his diary, the next he’s on board chatting to Jack. It isn’t that hard to work it out (despite no visual cues), and I suppose omits a lot of really unnecessary padding – but I haven’t come across this style before.


O’Brian isn’t trying too hard to make us identify and sympathise with people ‘just like us’, so often the assumption of the historical novel, but to enjoy some of the remarkable dissimilarities and events of a wonderfully alternate place.


December 2002