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Gregory Feeley[Tolstoy's]portrayal -- based on extensive research, access to O'Brian's personal papers, and more than 40 years' personal acquaintance -- shifts our image of O'Brian still further, though perhaps not in the direction he intended. The author of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, so worldly and assured in his self-presentation, was not merely a British eccentric but a profoundly damaged individual, whose psychic scarring and resulting haplessness places him in a class with Malcolm Lowry and T.H. White. Though he wrote with assurance and calm authority from his earliest days, O'Brian was a psychological basket case, so incapable in dealing with other people or managing his business and personal affairs that, were it not for his extraordinary literary gift (which manifested itself early) and -- like Lowry -- good fortune in his second wife, he would likely have proven incapable of supporting himself.
— The Washington Post