OF SEAFARING NOVELS BY PATRICK OBRIAN
to be a major motion picture)
the ages of 54 and 84 the late virtuoso historical novelist Patrick
OBrian something of a rogue who adopted an Oirish
persona and led a dubious life as a husband who was born
in 19l4 and died in 2000,wrote 20 books about The Royal Navy during
the Napoleonic Wars, known as his "roman fleuve" or river
The first volume was MASTER AND COMMANDER [ 1969]. The final instalment
was BLUE AT THE MIZZEN , set after "The 100 Days",
Napoleons final gasp/grasp at an imperial triumph,so the AUBREY/MATURIN
series as they are known covered the last decade of the C18 and
the first of the C19,up until 1820.
Since June 17th the visionary Australian film director Peter Weir, 58
has been in Mexico filming MASTER AND COMMANDER, with Aussie-New Zealander
Russell Crowe as Captain Lucky Jack Aubrey.Weirs project
has had a chequered history. The filmmaker spent much of his personal
fortune paying for the building of the books HMS SURPRISE, a square-rigged
, 28-gun frigate manowar,only to have the Disney financing
evaporate at the 11th hour. Then Twentieth-Century-Fox stepped in with
the $120,000,000 funding.
Lucky Jack is a bluff,hearty natural-born sailor and leader
of men, an extrovert known for his adulterous ways. Aubrey has a black
son who dogs his steps, a Right Reverend. Dr. Stepehn Maturin, played
in MASTER AND COMMANDER by Paul Bettany, of well-deserved GANGSTER #1
fame he was the young Malcolm McDowell- is a Catalan-Spanish patriot
and nationalist and a seasoned secret agent for the British. Married but
alienated from an aristocratic wife whos a brilliant equestrienne,
Maturin is a melancholy introvert and shipboard surgeon of brilliance,
pining for his daughter and a seadog who has never gained his sea-legs,
remaining clumsy, seasick and a clown to his shipmates.
OBrians 17th book in the series THE COMMODORE became an international
best seller in 1995 when he was 81. Director Weir has co-written the script
based largely upon the 10th episode in the series THE FAR CSIDE OF THE
WORLD but displacing the events to 1806 from 1812 to aviud the anti-American
implications of ther tenth episodes storyline.
All twenty novels bring to vivid almost palpable life the drudgery and
the glory of existence upon a man of war vessel: the scrupulous obsessive
hygiene demanded by a large crew living in one anothers pockets,
the constant peril from wholly unpredictable weather and enemy onslaught.
OBrien who in 1987 penned a biography of the great zoologist Sir
Joseph Banks is a master at describing the exotic flora and fauna that
Maturin loves in a child-like manner, his passion being Natural History.OBrian
also introduces Joseph Banks as the fictional mentor and moral
compass for the ethical perplexities of Dr.Maturins role as spy.
My own personal favourite volumes in the Aubrey-Maturin series are DESOLATION
ISLAND , THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD  ,which offers the most
rascally derring-do, and THE NUTMEG OF CONSOLATION  which has
the most exotic and menacing of locales.
Just for the record there are wenty-one novels in this series: the 15th
volume CLARISSA OAKES was published in Britain under the title THE TRUELOVE
© Alex Grant October 2002
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