Monday, March 7, 2011

Patrick O'Brian Again

We watched the film "Master and Commander" again last night and once again I was seduced by the accuracy of detail, the wonderful acting, the beautiful score, and the faithfulness to the sense of the original books, if not to the plot line. 

I've mentioned before my fondness for O'Brian's 20 book Aubrey/Maturin series. I've read the books multiple time and listened to them  on CD read by the amazing Patrick Tull more times than you would believe. An O'Brian book is my default listening in the car at any time.
But don't take my word for it. In a cover-story in The New York Times Book Review published on January 6, 1991, Richard Snow called the Aubrey-Maturin books "the best historical novels ever written. On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives."

And in a Washington Post article published August 2, 1992, Ken Ringle wrote, "The Aubrey/Maturin series far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart."

It's as if the close observation of human nature, the dry wit, and the elegant prose of Jane Austen  had gone to sea during the Napoleonic Wars and I find something  new to admire with every re-reading/listening/watching.

Need I add,  highly recommended?

(Book cover illustration and sea battle painting by the renowned marine artist Geoff Hunt
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29 comments:

GrandmaK said...

Sounds like a book I'd like to read! Thank you! Cathy

Martin H. said...

I've never read the book, or seen the film. Another to add to my miles long list.

Elora said...

My husband has read them all, Vicki, and, like you, believes them to be the very best of historical fiction. Absolutely superb. I bought him one set of DVD's though, for his birthday, and while they were OK...they didn't measure up to the written versions. (IHHO) (in his humble opinion)So our advice would be to stay with the actual books as opposed to believing you could "cheat" by watching a movie!
Elora

Brian Miller said...

nice. i enjoyed the movie and it led me to read several of the books which i found hugely enjoyable...

Helen T in SC said...

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the movie when it came out. Not usually a fan of war on land or sea--that is until I got hooked on the Horatio Hornblower PBS series. Master and Commander was well done and I own a DVD. Have not read the books but with these highly recommended comments, I think I will.

Reader Wil said...

If a book is about ships I am always interested. And moreover if the book deals with the Napoleonic times. My husband and I watched "The Onedin Line". I read the books about Lord Hornblower by C.S.Forester, and many more of the 18th century!

Vagabonde said...

I saw the movie and enjoyed it very much. I do not think I have any of his books but will place his name on my list of authors to look for when I go in second-hand book stores. I would think that one needs to read his 20 volumes in order?

Tess Kincaid said...

I have a copy of this film and watch it often. It's one of my favorites. Now I'm adding the book to my ever growing "must read" list.

Vicki Lane said...

The books are definitely best read in order. The movie is not like any one of the books but uses incidents from various books. And the characters are all just as I'd imagined from reading.

The books are like the Hornblower series (which I like too) but, in my opinion, far better written.

Margaret said...

I adored that movie and thanks for the reminder to put it on my Netflix list to enjoy again. The movie prompted me to purchase the book and if I recall correctly, I had to buy a companion guide to read along with it as many of the terms were foreign to me... Hmm, I am off to search my bookcase to see if I still have it.

Merisi said...

I remember both reviews!

Michael Dirda, in one of his columns for the Washington Post Book Review (when it was still printed and part of the Sunday edition), wrote very movingly about writers who leave us with a collection of wonderful books we can return to again and again, long after the writers are gone. I still have the pleasure of discovering O'Brian ahead of me.

Edd said...

I have read all 21 novels three times and listened to Patrick Tull's unsurpassed narrations twice. I have found that listening while reading along has added an even greater love for the series. I received 3 companion books for Christmas, "Sea of Words", "Patrick O'Brian's Navy:the Illustrated Companion to Jack Aubrey's World", and "Harbors and High Seas" which added immensely to my understanding of terminology, geography and more. I highly recommend the series, the CDs by Patrick Tull (and ONLY him) and the companion books. By the way, in a bitter irony, just after completing the narration of the uncompleted 21st novel, Patrick Tull also passed away. So we have lost them all.

Vicki Lane said...

Edd -- the companion books are wonderful indeed! We have then all.

I'm sorry to hear that Patrick Tull is gone -- an unsurpassed narrator.

Vicki Lane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edd said...

Here is a YouTube link to watch Patrick Tull do a reading from "The Reverse of the Medal". I brings tears to my eyes to listen and watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFi6fhcMnYQ

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Edd! What a treat!

Gil said...

It's Jane Austen with explosions.
Simon Vance does an excellent narration of the series and the MP3 downloads are free from most public libraries. I've read the series twice and am halfway through the Vance narration. As for Ringle's review of O'Brien and ultimate friendship, O'Brien named Aubrey's tender, the Ringle, which Aubrey won playing whist with Dundas. (if memory serves)

Gil said...

It's Jane Austen with explosions.
Simon Vance does an excellent narration of the series and the MP3 downloads are free from most public libraries. I've read the series twice and am halfway through the Vance narration. As for Ringle's review of O'Brien and ultimate friendship, O'Brien named Aubrey's tender, the Ringle, which Aubrey won playing whist with Dundas. (if memory serves)

Vicki Lane said...

Jane Austen with explosions -- I love it!

Didn't know the source of the Ringle's name -- thanks!

Edd said...

Gil, I have listened to Simon Vance and other narrators but I can almost guarantee you that if you listen to Patrick Tull you will not want to hear anyone else. Google him and see what others say. He has a most fervent group of followers.

Give him a try.

Edd

Vicki Lane said...

Count me as one of Tull's fervent followers. The guy was amazing.

Gil said...

Vicki,
As for the Ringle, O'Brian had not known of the sleek Baltimore Clippers until Ringle sent him historical accounts. O'Brian, in an interview, stated that he had a bout of writer's block until he became interested in the Baltimore Clipper's history after Ringle sparked his interest.

Vicki Lane said...

Fascinating, Gil! Some years ago my husband and I were alone bin a fog swept harbor in Maine and seemingly out of nowhere here came a Baltimore clipper. It was as if we'd fallen into a time warp.

It was the Pride of Baltimore, coming into harbor -- one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Gil said...

Vicki,
The Lynx, a replica of the orginal Lynx, a Baltimore Clipper Privateer during the War of 1812, has been here in Savannah for several months. In May we expect 15 tall ships.

Vicki Lane said...

Gil-Is that May of 2012?

Gil said...

Vicki,
I failed to include the year, 2012.
http://savannahnow.com/exchange/2011-03-14/tall-ships-sail-savannah-may-2012

Vicki Lane said...

Gil -- We're making tentative plans...

eddhale said...

In a very sad follow up to your mention of the Pride of Baltimore, did you know that it went down in a "white squall" in 1986 with the loss of the captain and 3 crewmembers? Read:
http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20094086,00.html

Then a new Pride of Baltimore was built and it was dismasted in the Fall of 2005. See some photos:
http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/1103/heartstringz/Pride%20of%20Baltimore%20II%20dismasting/

Vicki Lane said...

Edd - how sad! I don't remember the year we saw it -- quite probably it was the second one we saw.

White squall -- the words make me shiver. After seeing the movie of that name I decided I was just as glad we'd never pursued deep water sailing. When I was in high school, back in the late fifties, I had dreams of sailing on THE YANKEE on on of its round the world cruises...