Patrick O’Brian


The Wine Dark Sea

(Aubrey/Maturin, Book 16)


This is only the third Aubrey/Maturin novel I’ve read and it seems I was unwise to deviate from the chronology. While it still has much that I praised in Post Captain, I didn’t relish it as much because my expectations were already high. It’s still a wonderful deviation from so much bad historical fiction that tries too hard to make the characters acceptable to modern audiences (rather than challenging their assumptions) – but it was no longer surprising me by doing so. I still fully intend to track back and try to start at the beginning, but Wine Dark Sea didn’t stand alone as well for me – it felt more like something for the fans (and, hey, what can you expect for the sixteenth book in a series!). I found the extensive coverage of Maturin’s natural history ecstasies less than engaging after a while (as opposed to the gripping engagements in the last few pages). O’Brian still throws in some of the colourful characters of the time (such as Dutourd), and also catches the wonderfully civilised way Europeans could go about killing each other.


April 2005