Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: "Master and Commander"

After enjoying Patrick O'Brian's biography of Joseph Banks this summer, I decided it was time to give his Aubrey-Maturin series another try. The last time I started Master and Commander (probably in middle school), I never got into it and didn't get past the second or third chapter before I gave up. I enjoyed it much more this time around, but I don't think it transformed me into an obsessive O'Brian fan (maybe the next one will).

The book's detailed depiction of Napoleonic naval life is nicely done, and its characters are interesting and memorable. There were moments where I was completely riveted to the text, and when I laughed out loud at some of the shipboard antics. But there were also some stretches where I wished something, anything, would happen (to be fair, I suppose naval life must have had those stretches too). A bit more background would have been useful as well, just by way of setting the stage.

Nonetheless, this volume provides a good, strong opening to the series with an introduction of the characters, particularly the earthy Aubrey and the cerebral, contemplative Maturin. A pity to lose one of the other more interesting folks right at the beginning of the series, but presumably others will take his place.

I can see why these volumes are well-loved by so many, and I will look forward to the second, after a short shore leave.

1 comment:

Bill Peschel said...

You may want to consider giving the audio books a try, particularly the ones narrated by Patrick Tull (who was the only one to make it through all 21 books).

I, too, found the books a bit dry at times, but Tull's acting ability is perfectly in sync with the leisurely pacing of the books, and you won't have to attempt translations of the French, Latin, Spanish and Nautical.

Some of the happiest moments were coming home late at night from work, and sitting in the driveway, thousands of miles away, on board ship.