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This is a question Books

We love books. Tell us about your favourite books and authors, and why they are so good. And while you're at it - having dined out for years on the time I threw Dan Brown out of a train window - tell us who to avoid.

(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 13:40)
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Patrick O'Brian
I'm sure there must be a few people on here with similar tastes.

Patrick O'Brian was a novelist most noted for his Aubrey-Maturin Series, set during the Napoleonic Wars and after. The film 'Master and Commander: Far Side of the World' a few years back was based on these books: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey%E2%80%93Maturin_series

Now, you might think that 21 novels about two men serving together in the Navy during the early nineteenth-century, replete with detailed descriptions of the weather, naval politics, the logistics situation, Admiralty politics, etc. would get a bit dull. You'd be wrong. I'm going to try and persuade you to at least give them a try. Here's my reasons:

1) They're really very well written. You feel with a lot of historical novels that the author is torn between creating a believable world and creating an accurate world. Explanations of the historical context are clumsily forced into the story. Whole episodes happen for no other reason than to give you a scene with a particular historical figure, etc. O'Brian's not like that at all. He drops you straight into this World with very little explanation of what's happening - the books are best read with a Lexicon of Naval Terms by your side - but it's much more immersive as a result, and it makes his stories and characters incredibly believable. Over the course of the series, the characters develop - very gradually - in subtler and better drawn ways than an author would be likely to achieve in a single novel.

2) The hugeness of the series actually helps to make it a joy to read. The early novels work perfectly well as self-contained stories, but as the series develops, O'Brian uses the vast canvas he's given himself to stretch out plots and character-developments. There's key characters from one novel who crop up as peripheral characters several books later. Incidents on one voyage that are remembered years later in another. Whole sub-plots (particular rivalries, betrayals, love affairs, etc.) might run through ten novels before any resolution... it's a very different and rewarding reading experience.

3) You will learn lots. Especially about Naval History, but also the politics of the time, social history, and - due to the interests of Dr Maturin - Science and Anatomy in the period. Not to mention Geography - they cover pretty much the whole globe over the course of the series.

I'm on number 18 of 21 at the moment. I only started reading them last January. I've had to impose a rule whereby I can't read the next O'Brian book until I've read something different in between, to slow me down.

When I finish them, I think I'll give it a year off and then start again...
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 13:57, 8 replies)
I'm working my way through these too
I'm up to "The Commodore"
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 14:01, closed)
I'm one ahead of you. Finished the Commodore on Christmas Eve...
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 14:02, closed)
I tried them
I really wanted to like them but I just couldnt get into his flow... I find that with some authors
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 14:58, closed)
Yeah same here
An awful lot of things friends have recommended to me, I really haven't got. Same with me recommending O'Brian to others. Each to their own...
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 15:06, closed)
I finished reading these years ago.
But I recently reread The Ionian Mission, which rapidly lead me to rereading Master and Commander. They are just as good the second time round.

I've never read the 21st book though. I was cautioned about it by an even bigger fan than myself. You have to remember that it's only half a manuscript in a first draft format. It is nothing like a finished book and I think can be rather disappointing to some.
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 17:04, closed)
I've heard that
(that the last one isn't much crack). Will have to read it for the sake of completeness, though. It would be a bit odd to miss it out.
(, Thu 5 Jan 2012, 17:33, closed)
I love those books
they're the quintessential historical novels really.
(, Fri 6 Jan 2012, 17:04, closed)
Horatio H.
C.S. Forester did it first and better, IMHO.
(, Sat 7 Jan 2012, 3:08, closed)

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