24 November 2010

I want to join the British Navy, circa 1805

I now have a 25 minute commute each way. So I went to the library and picked up an audiobook. I actually have Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian as a book but i still hadn't gotten around to reading it.

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin meet at a private concert and almost get into a fight. Jack is in a black mood due to being overlooked for a promotion to captain. When Jack returns to his rooms, he finds that the promotion papers have been waiting for him. He meets Stephen again the next day and the two become friends. When Jack realizes his new command has no surgeon he asks Stephen to come on the ship as his doctor, even though he is a physician. Apparently physicians are rated more highly than surgeons as many other characters refer to how amazing it is that such a small, unimportant ship has a physician aboard.

Since this is the first book in the series, our doctor knows nothing about sailing. He gets a couple of tours of the ship, with a midshipman pointing out what the various parts are called and what they do. That was very helpful later when O'Brian refers back those bits during a battle.

And there are battles, nautical and land. But there is also a lot of inter-personal stuff, as Jack wins over his crew but an ever-changing relationship with his Lieutenant James Dillon. In one of those twists of literary fate, Dillon and Maturin are both Irish rebels who've hidden their pasts. At first wary of each other, Dillon and Maturin regain their former friendship, with Maturin often acting as a go-between with Dillon and Aubrey. Those three men dominate the story but i also enjoyed the well-drawn secondary characters like the midshipmen Babington and Ricketts, the everybody-but-Jack-knows-he's-gay-and-has-a-crush-on-Jack master William Marshall, the master's mates Pullings and Mowett. Not many females but I did picture Molly Harte, Jack's married mistress, as a Scarlett O'Hara-type.

I enjoyed this book. The reader, Patrick Tull, is very good. I couldn't help but picture our two protagonists as Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, which is probably better than how they are described in the book, at least in Maturin's case. I wonder if that is a movie worth getting on Blu-ray? Anyway, I recommend this if you want to find out what all the men were off doing when Jane Austen was writing. a 6. I've already picked up the second book on audio, Post Captain.

I could have used a drawing of a ship, with labels, though.

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