I’ve been reading this series on and off since I was a teenager. I got started on them through my mother, who also got my brother and sister hooked. My sister bought my brother and sister-in-law the complete set as a wedding present.
After a bit of a break in reading them, I’m finally attempting to read through all 20 books in a row and complete my collection of them.
I’ve been really enjoying my trip through them, despite this being at least my second or third time through most of the books. I just finished #12, and thought I would recommend them to you all.
Here’s the Wikipedia summation:
The Aubrey–Maturin series is a sequence of nautical historical novels—20 completed and one unfinished—by Patrick O’Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars and centering on the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin, a physician, natural philosopher, and intelligence agent. The first novel, Master and Commander, was published in 1969 and the last finished novel in 1999. The 21st novel of the series, left unfinished at O’Brian’s death in 2000, appeared in print in late 2004. The series received considerable international acclaim and most of the novels reached The New York Times Best Seller list. These novels comprise the heart of the canon of an author often compared to Jane Austen, C. S. Forester and other British authors central to the English literature canon.
Why do I love them so much? That’s a good question.
First of all, they’re immersive. The amount of historical detail and period British sailing jargon thrown in the books is impressive. It creates a whole rich world and makes you feel like you’re actually living in the time, without judgement or any sort of remove. It also gives you the opportunity to learn a whole bunch of jargon you’ll never use. Have you ever wanted to be able to bandy about the phrase “abaft the bits”, well, today’s your day. There’s also a huge number of references and allusions made to various western authors that I completely miss almost every time. I just stumbled on this website, listing all of them, and frankly I am shocked at my own ignorance. There’s a huge number of things to look up and learn about.
They’re exciting. Patrick O’Brian writes an excellent action scene, and there are a number of scenes that I remember vividly. They’re not too over the top action hero though. People are human, and suffer human wounds and die.
They’re funny in a very very dry way. The humor is bone dry, which is something I like. There are funny scenes and moments, but they don’t call attention to themselves.
They’re very human. I think I read this somewhere about the books, and while I can’t exactly express what it means, it struck me as a good description. They’re overall kind and hopeful and while bad things happen to many many people, they’re never morose or depressing.
Overall, I would highly recommend them.