Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin Series #1)

Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin Series #1)

4.3 95
by Patrick O'Brian
     
 

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The beginning of the sweeping Aubrey-Maturin series. "The best sea story I have ever read."—Sir Francis Chichester

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of

Overview

The beginning of the sweeping Aubrey-Maturin series. "The best sea story I have ever read."—Sir Francis Chichester

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
The best historical novels ever written.
Observer
Patrick O’Brian can put a spark of character into the sawdust of time.
Sir Francis Chichester
The best sea story I have ever read.
Time
“If Jane Austen had written rousing sea yarns, she would have produced something very close to the prose of Patrick O'Brian.”
People
“You're in for a wonderful voyage.”
A. S. Byatt
“Gripping and vivid… a whole, solidly living world for the imagination to inhabit.”
Washington Post
The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.— Ken Ringle
Los Angeles Times
“It has been said that this series is some of the finest historical fiction of our time . . . . Aubrey and Maturin have been described as better than Holmes and Watson, the equal of Quixote and Panza . . . . All this is true.
And the marvel is, it hardly says enough.”
Chicago Sun-Times
There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.— Stephen Becker
The New Yorker
“They're funny, they're exciting, they're informative. There are legions of us who gladly ship out time and time again under Captain Aubrey.”
New Republic
Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.
Boston Globe
“I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.”— E. O. Wilson
Irish Times
Some of you...have never read a Patrick O'Brian novel. I beseech you to start now. Start with Master and Commander, which should be available in paperback from your nearest bookseller. And if he—or she—does not have a copy, then beat the wretched fellow.— Kevin Myers
New York Times Book Review
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.— Richard Snow
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“O'Brian is a novelist, pure and simple, one of the best that we have.”
Slate
I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.— Christopher Hitchens
Stephen Becker
“To compare Patrick O'Brian with "writers of sea stories" is to compare Proust and the Orchid Fancier's Quarterly. O'Brian is literature. I am one of your surly pragmatical polyglot landlubbers, and I read him and reread him with awe and gratitude.”
George Will
“O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin volumes actually constitute a single 6,443-page novel, one that should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century.”
Martin Levin - New York Times Book Review
“Re-creates with delightful subtlety, the flavor of life aboard a midget British man-of-war plying the western Mediterranean in the year 1800, a year of indecisive naval skirmishes with France and Spain. Even for a reader not especially interested in matters nautical, the author's easy command of the philosophical, political, sensual and social temper of the times flavors a rich entertainment.”
Kevin Myers - Irish Times
“Some of you...have never read a Patrick O'Brian novel. I beseech you to start now. Start with Master and Commander, which should be available in paperback from your nearest bookseller. And if he—or she—does not have a copy, then beat the wretched fellow.”
Richard Snow - New York Times Book Review
“The best historical novels ever written.”
John Bayley - New York Review of Books
“A world of enchanting fictional surfaces.”
Donald Graham - Wall Street Journal
“If there were seventeen more novels, I'd start today.”
Christopher Hitchens - Slate
“I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.”
James Hamilton-Paterson - New Republic
“Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.”
Keith Richards
“I fell in love with his writing straightaway, at first with Master and Commander. It wasn’t primarily the Nelson and Napoleonic period, more the human relationships. …And of course having characters isolated in the middle of the goddamn sea gives more scope. …It’s about friendship, camaraderie. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin always remind me a bit of Mick and me.”
Tamar Lewin - New York Times
“It has been something of a shock to find myself—an inveterate reader of girl books—obsessed with Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic-era historical novels… What keeps me hooked are the evolving relationships between Jack and Stephen and the women they love.”
David Mamet - New York Times
“[O’Brian’s] Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.”
Ken Ringle - Washington Post
“The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.”
Stephen Becker - Chicago Sun-Times
“There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.”
E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe
“I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.”
Terry Teachout - New York Times Book Review
“Taken as a whole, the Aubrey-Maturin novels are by a long shot the best things of their kind... they are uniquely excellent.”
Katherine A. Powers - Atlantic Monthly
“One does not get many pages into the Aubrey-Maturin sequence before falling under the spell of O'Brian's prose, which is... elegantly paced, quietly witty.”
Cutler Durkee - People
“[The series shows] a joy in language that jumps from every page…you're in for a wonderful voyage.”
Martin Levin - The New York Times Book Review
“Re-creates with delightful subtlety, the flavor of life aboard a midget British man-of-war plying the western Mediterranean in the year 1800, a year of indecisive naval skirmishes with France and Spain. Even for a reader not especially interested in matters nautical, the author's easy command of the philosophical, political, sensual and social temper of the times flavors a rich entertainment.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393058956
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
12/05/2011
Series:
Aubrey-Maturin Series , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
19,293
File size:
809 KB

What People are saying about this

Keith Richards
I fell in love with his writing straightaway, at first with Master and Commander. It wasn’t primarily the Nelson and Napoleonic period, more the human relationships. …And of course having characters isolated in the middle of the goddamn sea gives more scope. …It’s about friendship, camaraderie. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin always remind me a bit of Mick and me.
A. S. Byatt
Gripping and vivid… a whole, solidly living world for the imagination to inhabit.
George Will
O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin volumes actually constitute a single 6,443-page novel, one that should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century.

Meet the Author

Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherrière's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 12, 1914
Date of Death:
January 2, 2000
Place of Birth:
Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire
Place of Death:
Dublin, Ireland
Education:
Shebbear College, Devon
Website:
http://www.wwnorton.com/pob/pobhome.htm

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Master and Commander 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 95 reviews.
J_Thomason More than 1 year ago
While I understand and (to a limited extent) sympathize with some of the negative ratings this book has received, this is fast becoming my favorite series and I'm only on Book 7(?) The Surgeon's Mate. There were occasional stretches of narrative that I only dimly understood, filled with 18th Century nautical terminology like "leeward", "close-hauled", etc. Some of this I am only now beginning to grasp, some I'm still clueless on. I simply read it through as best I could, happy for those who did understand it. Knowing all the fine points of sailing that O'Brien mentions undoubtedly enriches the reading experience, but it is by no means necessary. Three pages of text can either have you running to a dictionary, Google, etc. etc. every other word in frustration as one of the previous reviewers mentioned, or you can just plow through it to get the gist - something like "After a day-long chase, Aubrey was able to bring the French ship to battle by his ingenious method of cross-bracing." The point is, the rest of the novel is so astoundingly good that to get hung up on not being able to follow all the nautical minutiae and jargon of the period is to miss the forest for the tree (lack of plural intentional). Each book seems better than the last, but I'm not sure if that's due to the books getting better, my being able to appreciate each one more, or some combination of both. There is a reason that this series has been given such effusive praise, and it's not because those lauding it take delight in luring in and vexing unsuspecting readers: It's just that good.
barrya More than 1 year ago
This is beautifully written and is much more than simply a series of sea adventures due to the skill and depth of the author whose fascination is with the relationships between the characters involved rather than simply writing about dashing heroes in heroic engagements. The latter is there, certainly, but O'Brian quickly saw that he had an ideal setting in which to examine characters and their relationships by placing his characters into the narrow confines of the British warships of the period - the Napoleonic Wars. The series covers the period from about 1796 to the start of the 1820s. His first five or so novels in the series are based on engagements that actually took place, his research including reading the logs kept by the Captains involved. As inspiration for Captain Aubrey, he no doubt focused on the real life hero Lord Cochrane - you might also enjoy reading about him and his life. Aubrey befriends a young physician, Materin, who is half Irish and half Catalonian, both peoples subjected by conquering powers - the English and the Spanish. Materin longs for Irish independence from England, but he abhors Napoleon even more. It takes O'Brian about three books to begin to truly realize the depth and potential of his characters. Materin is revealed as a naturalist of note, a secret spy for the Navy against the French and her allies, and a man of great depth but with a violent core which makes him, when fully aroused, a ferocious enemy. Aubrey, in keeping with much actual history, is a brilliant and "scientific" captain, quite adept at math, grinding lenses to make his own telescopes, a fierce and fearless fighter asea -- but often oftimes quite lost ashore, gullible, and with many of the traditional weaknesses of the sailors who sometimes spent years away from home on their adventures and for whom their ties and vows existed not very far beyond the shores of their own homes.... Materin, in contrast, is a force truly to be reckoned with ashore, but is ever in danger of stepping wrong and drowning at sea. Illustrating their characters, Aubrey plays the violin, and plays it quite well, whereas Materin's instrument is the cello, with its deeper and perhaps more mysterious tones. Women, as characters, don't really enter the series until the third book or so, and it helps to keep in mind that O'Brian is taking a long view of things and is quite content to take three books to actually develop his female characters. The writing is excellent, the characters interesting, events do occur to carry things along, but they move at the pace of the wind, this being the age of sailing ships. You will near the end of each volume saying to yourself there's no way he can resolve this situation in the few pages remaining, it must carry on to the next volume, but each book is complete unto itself - in every case he wraps the story up and finishes it, then plants the seeds for the next book in the series. i found them calming, satisfying, a view into a different age. And during the series, O'Brian takes you on journeys to various areas around the world at that time. Enjoyable and with 20 books in the series, lots of chances to continue to follow characters you come to know and appreciate.
Last_of_the_Good_Guys More than 1 year ago
Master and Commander is the siren song fo the greatest adventure series ever--the Aubrey Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Read this at your peril, for you will be swept into a world of 20 books and at least two essential companion guides that will make the arcane world of the 19th century British Navy a key part of your everyday life. Absolute reading pleasure! Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, ignore all of the hateful reviews. If you are seeking this or any of O'Brian's novels, then you know you are going to enjoy it. The HUGE advantage of the Nook copy is the instant dictionary, which solves the jargon/lingo issue. Captain Jack and Stephen form such a strong dynamic that you want the next book immediately. The comparison to Horatio Hornblower is fair but the authors had different purposes. Again, give this series a fair chance. Be warned: you will want an atlas and history book to know locations and the historical references.
IHFEM More than 1 year ago
This book will press-gang you into the early 1800's at sea with the Royal Navy and it will be a decidedly better experience than that for those who really were pressed into service. It is the first of 20 novels (they do come in a 5-volume set) whose detail and adventure have yet to be equalled in historical fiction. Make sure to get the companion book, "A Sea of Words" by Dean King. It acts as a 500 page glossary for the myriad details of life at sea and ashore in the time of King George found it the 5 volume set the series becomes. The most amazing thing is that all 5 volumes are page turners from the first. The characters are well drawn, the history is,by and large (a sailing term, you will learn), accurately portrayed and the detail is truly extraordinary. If you have enjoyed Horatio Hornblower, this is an absolute must. It's Hornblower on steriods.
seesnapefly More than 1 year ago
Once you get used to the mind-boggling ship jargon and quick paced action sequences, you'll guzzle this series down like a pumpkin-spice latte (and the best part is, it's good for you and you don't even know it!) O'Brian is a masterful writer who can tackle everything partaining to the era: music, scientific theory, politics, and of course, NAVAL SRATEGY. Not only is he a great historian; he is also Austenian regarding his characters. Stephen Maturin and Jack Aubrey have a constantly ameliorating relationship that is the basis of the books. Every character O'Brian writes is so REAL, so tangible, that I've fallen in love with most (despite their glorious faults) and love to hate the rest.

The best way to sum up the books is with something my sister said to me after I'd been ranting about my favorite parts of a later book:

"You should read these more often. They put you in a good mood".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Start now.
DarthAzard13 More than 1 year ago
O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin naval series is a true classic. The underappreciated film led me to this book, and I am ever so glad it did! You can almost feel the salty sea-spray while reading this fine novel. No other author can conjure up life aboard a man-of-war as O'Brian. You will not be disappointed with this book or the entire series. Buy this book!
GeoffSmock More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel, though not as much as Forester's Hornblower ones. Between Aubrey and Hornoblower the latter is more open to the reader. He is more thoughtful and human, possessing sentiments, worries, and confusions that one easily empathizes with. He is a deeply sympathetic character, a little bit more so than the braggadicio and excessive volubility of Aubrey.

Especially enjoyable in this work was the character of Dr. Maturin, whose blanket ignorance of all things nautical and his starkly different personality from Aubrey's place him in the position of representing the reader in the plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a difficult book to start. It took me two tries before O'Brian's quirky style really became engrossing, but I cannot sufficiently express the delight that awaits the persistent reader. That said, I would not recommend M&C to those unacquainted with naval history or the period in general. Though loath to own it, I read most of the Alexander Kent series first. Despite being a poor writer and no historian Kent's shallow facile treatment provided a useful basis to understand the uncompromising but realistic complexity of O'Brian's books. After reading the whole Aubrey/Maturin series three and four times apeice, M&C is still my favorite. O'Brian's ability to transform years of research and study, volumes of cold, formal dispatches and logbooks into vividly evocative literature is particularly remarkable. For those who appreciate O'Brian's painstaking historicity, unadorned characters, and striking unique prose, this is perhaps the purest and most rewarding of the series. For those who don't, well, there's always Kent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't believe the negative review I just read re: Master and Commander. I've read all 21 books except the first--Master and Commander. For some reason I started with book #2 and ate up the series for a period of over a year--relishing every adventure. O'Brian's gift for bringing characters off the page is out of this world. Maybe the first attempt sucked, I don't know, but as an author and an age of sail fan, PLEASE give this series a chance if the first book doesn't bite you. It will take you wonderful places and made you do something not many books do anymore...think. No, you won't always like Aubrey and some of the choices he makes, and Maturin may strike you as an odd duck, but that's what makes these two characters so human and where O'Brian deserves his accolades-not to mention his gift for educating us landlubbers about life aboard a man-o-war and world history. I can't 'fathom' not falling madly in love with this series and recommend skipping #1 and starting with #2. Sound gushy? O'Brian's work changed my life in many ways. I took up age of sail research, wrote my third novel, got my scuba certification and have traveled to the Caribbean twice. I plan to go to England in a couple years and pursue my genealogy and learn more about one of the greatest naval histories on earth. So there!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I heard a great deal about the series and looked forward to reading the book and seeing if everything was as good as I was led to expect. This is the first book, but so far, while the details are rich, the plot seems to meander with no real direction or purpose other than introducing characters and sea terms. Perhaps the plots get more focused in furute books, but this one was a little lacking and is making me wonder if I will buy any of the others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series is good reading from the historical and naval perspectives. Easy to read and characters are well defined.
iaijohn More than 1 year ago
Master & Commander is an action packed summer reading adventure. There you are in the eighteen century Royal Navy on the high seas with the water, the weather and your wily opponent. It is quite a contrast to being at the office, or is it! The writing is action oriented and the story set in simpler times. So relax and enjoy. This is the first of the extensive series of Jack Aubrey stories by Patrick O'Brian. It introduces Captain Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy and his sidekick Dr. Stephen Maturin. They have much in common but in some ways do not see eye to eye. Nevertheless together they work hard on the ship and play hard on the beach. You will learn a lot about the officers and crew of a Napoleonic era sailing ship the Sophie. It is a smaller ship called a sloop. You will not only learn how different the lives of the officers and the crew are but also how they pull together to survive the sea and the enemy. And those sea battles against stronger opponents will blow you away like the eighteen pounders of the Sophie! And when you are done there are many more books about Captain Jack in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
just ok
AR1 More than 1 year ago
In my opinion a delightful novel, however sometimes difficult to follow because of the nautical and English vocabularly. Somewhat easy to understand if the reader has had Military (Naval) background. AR
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good im reading the series a second time
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