Patrick O'Brian is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel, Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories have recently been reprinted by HarperCollins. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.
O'Brian's tenth book in the Aubrey/ Maturin series (e.g., The Surgeon's Mate, Audio Reviews, LJ 4/1/94) finds Jack sadly contemplating the impending retirement of his favorite ship, Surprise, now outdated by the heavier oceangoing fighters perfected during the War of 1812. But the "dear Surprise" is saved from her fate by the need to send British shipping to "the far side of the world"-the Great South Sea-to protect English whalers from the U.S.S. Chesapeake. At the same time, Jack's friend and ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin, is slated to perform more of the intelligence work that has caused confusion among the French since the start of the war. In one of the most suspenseful episodes of the entire series, Stephen falls overboard at night, and when Jack leaps in to rescue him, the Surprise sails placidly away, leaving the two treading water in the shark-infested tropical waters-a situation for which the listener can see no possible solution. O'Brian's ability to create suspense and provide clever and plausible outcomes to this and other predicaments is a hallmark of the series. Well narrated by Patrick Tull, the complete series is highly recommended for public libraries.-Sharon Cumberland, Seattle Univ.
'...full of the energy that comes from a writer having struck a vein... Patrick O'Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.' James Hamilton- Paterson 'You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O'Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him.' Kevin Myers, Irish Times 'In a highly competitive field it goes straight to the top. A real first-rater.' Mary Renault 'I never enjoyed a novel about the sea more. It is not only that the author describes the handling of a ship of 1800 with an accuracy that is as comprehensible as it is detailed, a remarkable feat in itself. Mr O'Brian's three chief characters are drawn with no less depth of sympathy than the vessels he describes, a rare achievement save in the greatest writers of this genre. It deserves the widest readership.' Irish Times