Master and Commander
Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brien Pages: 459 First published: 1970
The book: This is the first novel in a fictional series about Captain Jack Aubrey of the British Royal Navy. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this is the story of Aubrey’s first command as Captain and the adventures and battles that ensue.
You might like it because: It’s a marvelous tale of life in Nelson’s navy, with all it’s political intrigue, sailing adventures, and dangerous naval battles. O’Brien does a wonderful job of bringing the time period to life and immersing the reader in navy life.
What did other people say?
“The best historical novels ever written.” – Richard Snow, New York Times
“The best sea-story I have ever read.” Sir Francis Chichester
How quickly will you get into the book? The first few chapters set up the background to the story, the main characters, and their relationships. I found this interesting, but the story didn’t really grab me until the action at sea starts, which is around page 142. From there on in it was a great read.
You might not like it because: In bringing the time period to life, O’Brien uses a lot of words and phrases that would have been used by sailors back in the 1800s. Initially, as I read, I spent a bit of time Googling old words to find out their meaning. If looking up old language and sailing terminology online or in a dictionary gets in the way of your enjoyment of the story, then look elsewhere for something to read.
What might you read next?
Read Cochrane The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain by Robert Harvey. Cochrane is the real-life figure, on which O’Brien based his character Aubrey.
Enjoy a story about a different kind of battle at sea in Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
Or try We, The Drowned by Danish author Carsten Jensen, an epic tale about the seafaring people of a small town in Denmark.