Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin Series #1)

Master and Commander (Aubrey-Maturin Series #1)

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 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.

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: 25,799
File size: 3 MB

About 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.

Date of Birth:

December 12, 1914

Date of Death:

January 2, 2000

Place of Birth:

Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire

Place of Death:

Dublin, Ireland


Shebbear College, Devon

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.

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Master and Commander 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 120 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
My first trip through the series was almost 20 years ago. I’m still moved by the language and how the author developed his characters and the world they lived in. This is worth your time.
stevenwbucey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't finish it. The scenes often failed to transition so that the characters appeared too disjointed.
taylorw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd started with the third volume of this series, HMS Surprise, and plowed through with such delight that I went ahead to the fourth. But then I stopped to go back to Master and Commander and start from the beginning. I've been through the series three times (can that be true?... such are the delights and powers of this astonishing work; like listening to the 5th Symphony from time to time). I would now say read the second or third volumes first, since they are filled with more of the social realities (i.e., Diana Villiers) which ultimately gives the novels their expansive, may we say Dickensian scope. Newcomers overwhelmed and put off by the nautical jargon would find these more welcoming perhaps.And if there is another writer who can drop the reader into another place and time, and do it with such subtle command of the language and sensibilities of the time, I've not come across him or her. I find myself unfairly comparing his prose style to almost all other fiction I read.
ssfletch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Aubry-Maturin! Master & Commander! Patrick O'Brian! It doesn't get any better than this for historical fiction fans. O'Brian has written a superlative series of books that follow the adventures, escapades, and intrigue of naval commander Jack Aubrey and his friend and companion, physican-spy-naturalist, Stephen Maturin. O'Brian's books could have been written in the century they describe as his style, vocabulary, and knowledge of early 19th Century naval history and vernacular is awe-inspiring.The series starts out with Jack Aubrey assuming command of the brig Sophie, recently promoted to Commander from Lieutenant. His daring and brash exploits at sea make him a favorite of his crew (much more prize-money, that way)and certain officials and officers of the Royal Navy. However, he also makes enemies with others who are jealous of his "luck" as they see it and because his vocal father is a thorn in the side of the Tories back home, being an out-spoken and critical member of the Whig party, now out of power. Jack's dashing, yet sometimes clumsy and oafish character are a perfect counterpoint to his ship physician and friend, Stephen Maturin. Stephen is learned, speaks multiple languages, and is a dangerous and effective spy for Her Royal Majesty's government. The two, so dissimiliar in build, upbringing and taste, become great friends and it is their enduring, and often endearing, relationship that often carries the narrative.Anyone looking for adventure in the naval realm, intriguing plots in national and international affairs, magnificent battle scenes, and a sweeping view of English, French, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, pacific and South American 19th century history will not be disappointed.
kamwb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All these Aubrey/Maturin books are great.
nothingtosay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably going to be 'the book where I only read when I am on vacation that involves long traveling time with nothing else to do' for me, though for the life of me I don't know why I do this in the first place. The character is intriguing, so that is pretty much the reason that I keep coming back for the next page after leaving it alone for months. That's also what got me into historical fiction without feeling like reading a textbook.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A sea adventure of the top notch. The story of the captain of a ship, Jack Aubrey, in HMS, during the early 1800s, this book is full of little details of life aboard ship intricately woven into the narrative. You will also meet Stephen Maturin, a physician who finds himself aboard as a ship's surgeon. I love the details of medical knowledge and treatment at that time, again, woven into the tale. The author has a gift of helping you understand the nautical terminology and battle events. This was a real page turner and I'm looking forward to more books in the series.
lucybrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Master and Commander is an incredible amount of fun, rather like Jane Austen at sea. The characterization is pitch perfect, the evocation of the period, insightful and the intrigues, well, intriguing.
firebird013 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book opens the series that has been described as the best historical fiction ever written. When you get to complete the first ten books you will be minded to agree. They are gripping, well crafted, erudite, amusing and full of humanity. The historical battles are closely based on what actually happened in real naval engagements.The two main characters, Jack Aubrey and Dr. Maturin are wonderfully conceived, complex and entirely believable. If you have not started this series then you have a real delight ahead!
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great introduction of the classic pairing of maturin and aubrey and there adventure. There is similarity between this series and marryat novels, but these are just as good.
rameau on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A few months ago, I watched a documentary of O'Brian that was done in the late 90s before his death. He was cagey about his life, but I was amused because all the personal info was complete lies. After re-reading Master and Commander, I have a theory about that. O'Brian was a man from that time. He was from 1800. Oh yes, the structures of the books are quite modern, but he writes with the knowledge of the native. He knew this world. He was a time traveler. That's the only logical explanation.
JohnMunsch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The amount of sailing jargon can be very offputting but don't let it get to you. Much, if not most, of it can be ignored.
denmoir on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is good writing. Compare O'Brian's approach to the reader with that of countless popular writers who tediously explain technical terms, assuming we are all morons. The same authors display their technical knowledge self-consciously, knowing their own deficiencies. O'Brian assumes we will find out, if we feel we must, what all the nautical terms mean. He certainly knows what they are and they occur naturally in their place in the course of the story. I think the names of all the sails that ever were are not essential knowledge. I just read the book and enjoyed the story.
BruderBane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve been reading a fair bit of historical fiction of late and have enjoyed the genre immensely. When an old chum and a number of people on this site suggested Master and Commander I was prepared for a truly rip-roaring tale of adventure; I guess my hopes were set too high. I really wanted to like this book, I really did, but I found it quite stale. I can definitely appreciate the linguistic and seafaring appeal of this book, but the story as a whole did not ¿do it¿ for me. There were times when I found myself bored to tears. I¿m still going to rent the film and see how that measures up against this novel.