Patrick O'Brian, one of our greatest contemporary novelists, 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 republished by HarperCollins. 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 letter by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.
This long-out-of-print naval adventure in the series that started with Master and Commander (see The Mauritius Command below) finds Captain Jack Aubrey in charge of the H.M.S. Surprise. His ship's surgeon and friend, Stephen Maturin, sidelines in espionage and natural science. Through Maturin's eyes we see the environment in great detail--down to the species of beetle that inhabits an area. The Surprise is commissioned to deliver an English envoy to India. It is the early 19th century, when England fought for supremacy over France and Napoleon's navy, and Aubrey itches for an engagement with the crafty old French admiralpk Linois. He hopes to capture the French ship and earn the prize money that would clear his debt and allow him to marry Sophie, his true love. O'Brian knows his history and sailing, as is evident in the rich particulars--sometimes overwhelming. Those who don't know their foretopsail from their maintopsail will at times be as lost as landlubbers on a stormy sea. Stretching its genre but never escaping it, the novel will impress those who enjoy swashbucklers. (May)
'...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 'Few, very few, books have made my heart thump with excitement. H.M.S. Surprise managed it. [O'Brian's] erudition is phenomenal, as is his capacity for creating another completely believable world. I might have given a better idea of this book if I had simply written 600 times the word "superb".' Helen Lucy Burke, Irish Times 'As sinewy, and virile as its predecessors, this is a copper-bottomed investment for the numerous fans of Jack Aubrey... we sail breathlessly through perilous seas to the Far East. Vivid and authentic as is Mr O'Brian's mastery of period and life at sea, it is in his creation of characters that he excels.' Sarah Lake, Daily Telegraph