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.
The Surgeon's Mate , volume eight in Patrick O'Brian's marvelous collection of seafaring novels (e.g., The Ionian Mission , Audio Reviews, LJ 1/94), continues the saga of Jack Aubrey, a post captain in the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars, and his particular friend Stephen Maturin, who is at once a ship's surgeon and a British intelligence agent. What makes this series outstanding is not only its exciting historical plot--set, in this outing, between the renewed war with America and the shifting loyalties of Spain--but the ongoing development of personalities and relationships among the principles: Jack; his wife, Sophie; Stephen; the femme fatale Diana Villiers; and a supporting cast of sailors, admirals, captains, naturalists, and enemy agents worthy of Charles Dickens. The friendship that develops between Jack and Stephen over the course of these novels can only be compared in its psychological complexity to the characters of Henry James. Reader Patrick Tull narrates The Surgeon's Mate capably. This entire series is recommended for libraries wishing to provide their patrons with a rare mix of excitement, historical accuracy, and literary depth.-- Sharon Cumberland, Graduate Ctr., CUNY
'...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
O'Brian's superb series on the early-19th-century adventures of Jack Aubrey, a Royal Navy officer, and his friend Stephen Maturin, Navy surgeon and naturalist, continues with a look at the darker side of Maturin's life: his work in British intelligence. Aubrey, Maturin and Diana Villiers (Maturin's fickle and enigmatic love) are passengers on a packet ship from Nova Scotia to England when two American privateers give chase. They are hunting Maturin, who has compromised U.S. spy networks. The Americans are eluded, and upon reaching England, Maturin sets off to France. Armed with safe conduct papers, he lectures on natural history and installs Villiers in Paris. Suspicious French agents try to bait Maturin but he refuses to be lured into an indiscretion. On his return to London, Maturin is sent to woo Catalan officers and troops from the French cause to the British. Aubrey provides transport, but despite his best support, including staging a splendid charade chase on the water, the mission takes a nasty turn when their ship founders; seized by the French, Maturin and Aubrey are hauled off to Paris's infamous Temple Prison. (Jan.)