Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949

Overview

A complex, layered portrait of the man considered by many to be the greatest British novelist of the twentieth century.
This is the story of Patrick O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the south of France. His childhood; his precocious writing success; his sailing experiences; and the truth behind his first marriage, divorce, and name change are set forth with candor and sympathy. Along the way Nikolai Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that would one...

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Overview

A complex, layered portrait of the man considered by many to be the greatest British novelist of the twentieth century.
This is the story of Patrick O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the south of France. His childhood; his precocious writing success; his sailing experiences; and the truth behind his first marriage, divorce, and name change are set forth with candor and sympathy. Along the way Nikolai Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that would one day lead to comparisons to Jane Austen and even Homer. Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson, and their acquaintance lasted forty-five years. He stayed with his mother and O'Brian at their French home and was a frequent correspondent with the reclusive author, discovering facets of his character and creative genius that were hidden from others. Over the years he accumulated a vast collection of the author's papers, correspondence, and notebooks, many of which are reproduced here. On the basis of this trove of original material, Tolstoy has written the definitive biography that O'Brian and his admirers deserve.

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Editorial Reviews

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
Library Journal
British novelist O'Brian has been favorably compared to Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Laurence Sterne, and Rudyard Kipling; Richard Snow called his Jack Aubrey- Stephen Maturin tales the "finest historical novels ever written." To trace his development as a writer, stepson Tolstoy mines O'Brian's diaries, juvenilia, letters, and other unpublished papers in this didactic, repetitious, and exhaustive study. The seventh of ten children, O'Brian had a rather peripatetic childhood. After his mother died, he was shifted among his father's and his relatives' houses, learning to live in the worlds of his books. His first novel, Caesar-written at age 12-contains rich autobiographical material about his early years and his attitudes toward his father, siblings, and new stepmother. Tolstoy provides biographical readings of both the early and the later novels, showing how O'Brian weaves his own experiences into the fiction. He also challenges many assertions in Dean King's Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed, the only other full-scale biography available. Although dull, workmanlike prose and an often preachy tone mar this biography, most libraries will want to own a copy owing to O'Brian's popularity. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393061307
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/19/2005
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nikolai Tolstoyis a highly recognized historian and biographer. He is a White Russian and heir to the senior line of the Tolstoy family.
His great-grandfather was a cousin of the world-famous novelist. In compiling Victims of Yalta, Tolstoy spent five years of intensive research traveling all over Europe to interview survivors and inspect sites of repatriation operations. His previous works include The Coming of the King, The Quest for Merlin, The Minister and the Massacres, The Night of the Long Knives, Stalin's Secret War, and The Tolstoys. He lives in Somerset, England.

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