George V. Reilly

Review: The Far Side of the World

The Far Side of the World
Title: The Far Side of the World
Author: Patrick O’Brian
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Copyright: 1984
Pages: 366
Keywords: historical fiction
Reading period: 27 May–1 June, 2007

This is the tenth of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels, and it provides much of the basis for the film Master and Commander.

During the War of 1812, Captain Jack Aubrey is sent in pursuit of an American frigate, which has sailed around Cape Horn into the Pacific to seize British whalers in the South Seas. Aubrey and his good friend, the surgeon Stephen Maturin, overcome many obstacles during the pursuit: the ship is badly damaged at one point, crew members are murdered, and Aubrey and Maturin manage to get themselves marooned not once but twice on remote islands.

I received a boxed set of the 21 novels for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I’ve been working my way slowly through the series. Slowly, because I find that if I read several books in a series back to back, they start to blur together, and these books are so good that I want to savor them. Some argue that this series is one 6000-page long novel, since the books are so clearly linked in a sequence.

O’Brian draws you back into the world of 18th-century seafaring, writing in the style of the period, thick with authentic nautical detail. Long tales of adventure and travel and friendship between two very different men. The wretched tedium of months at sea; the thrill of the chase; the horror of battle.

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