Patrick O’Brian, “The Mauritius Command”

Pierre Julien Gilbert, “Combat de Grand Port,” a contemporary painting of the actual battle described in the book.

Are you getting bored with Patrick O’Brian yet? Because I have to warn you, I’m not. I’ve got Lee Child’s new novel on my Kindle, but what’s in my purse when I leave the house? Yes — that would be the South Seas. (I think. I’m not one of those readers who keeps the atlas handy. In my experience those tend to be men.) Sloshing around with my phone and my wallet, I’ve got the Boadicea and all who sail with her. In The Mauritius Command, Jack Aubrey is commodore of a squadron, so O’Brian can  show Jack shouldering wider duties and commanding other captains, some of whom we come to know well. This becomes one of the great strengths of the series; time and again we’ll meet substantial secondary characters who are fully rounded, puzzling, charming, exasperating, admirable, infuriating, or all of these at once. Lord Clonfert is that character in this novel, and one of the most indelible; a vain, dashing Irish peer who causes Jack no end of trouble in the scheme to capture the islands of Mauritius and La Réunion from the French. Stephen, as so often, is more perceptive about the subtleties of the man, who is very popular with his sailors. In his journal (an invaluable writerly device) Stephen writes about this attachment,

“…a continued affection over a long period must be based on the recognition of real qualities in the man, for a ship at sea,… is an enclosed village, and whoever heard of the long-matured judgment of a village being wrong? … And the qualities valued by a community of men are commonly good nature, generosity and courage.”

Wisdom, don’t you think?

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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3 Responses to Patrick O’Brian, “The Mauritius Command”

  1. Mary Nicoll says:

    A wonderful one, as I remember. One of the things I loved about reading the whole series was getting into the minds of men like Jack and Stephen, as well as appreciating their deepening friendship over the years.

  2. carolwallace says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Mary. The books aren’t sentimental, but they are deeply poignant, and I don’t think I know of a better literary portrayal of an enduring friendship.

  3. Pingback: Patrick O’Brian, “The Thirteen Gun Salute” « Book Group of One

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