Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin, Book One)

Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin, Book One)
Patrick O’Brian, 1969

Premise: In 1800, two men meet at a concert by being terribly rude to each other. Jack Aubrey is a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, currently without a post. Stephen Maturin is a physician, currently without a patient. Their friendship will change both their lives, as well as the lives of everyone around them.

This is a re-read for me, because I recently bought the whole series for my Kindle. Huzzah! Now I can dip into the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin any time I want!

I had forgotten how utterly delightful I find these books. I love the style, the way it’s grounded in the time the story is set while still being accessible. I love the characters. I love Jack’s bluster and good humor, and Stephen’s wit and wisdom. I love them together, Jack stumbling upon the doctor’s curious blind spots or Stephen wincing at Jack’s overbearing humor.

There’s a good deal of humor in the writing, much of it subtle and witty, as well as a good deal of drama and action to be had. Soon enough Jack and Stephen are at sea in the Sophie, and much of this book revolves around forming the crew of the little sloop into a team and fulfilling missions to protect British shipping and harass the French along the coastline. If you are interested in naval history, you will enjoy the descriptions of life aboard ship. If you don’t think you’re interested in naval history, you might be by the end!

Mr. Dillion, Jack’s first lieutenant, has history with Stephen and trouble relating to Jack, and his presence clarifies both their characters. There are an assortment of other minor characters, including Mr. Marshall, whose crush on Jack goes unnoticed by him, but not by his shipmates, and Commander Harte, who is aware of Jack’s behavior with his wife, and threatens to bring all of them down for it.

The one caveat I would add for those unfamiliar with this series is that, while there are plenty of character arcs and plots to follow, the book isn’t structured with them in mind. The entire series (20 books plus half of one left unfinished by the death of the author) tells the story of the life of a friendship. Each piece is a small arc, but doesn’t have the same kind of resolution that most novels have. What I’m trying to say is that after a major plot is resolved, the book ends rather abruptly. Many of the books in this series do the same. I don’t mind this, but it might be rather jarring the first time.

For the beginning of one of the great friendships in literature, I’m definitely giving Master and Commander-

5 Stars - An Awesome Book


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