BrothersJudd.com
Loading

Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at audible.com!
Download and Listen to any Audiobook for only $7.49. Save 50% for 3 months on over 100,000 Titles.


The High Seas' Man of War: a review of COCHRANE: The Real Master and Commander By David Cordingly (Ken Ringle,, Washington Post)
Though far from humble about his creative talents, novelist Patrick O'Brian always stressed that the real-life Royal Navy exploits on which he based his 20-book Aubrey/Maturin saga far outstripped anything he could imagine. He also noted repeatedly that his swashbuckling scourge of the Napoleonic navy, "Lucky Jack" Aubrey, was grounded in the life and adventures of a genuine naval hero named Thomas Cochrane, about whom too little is remembered today. Now comes British writer and historian David Cordingly, a former curator at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, to bring us up to date on Cochrane. If his biography is not quite a banquet for the reader, it is still most intriguing and satisfying fare. Within his nearly 85 years, Cochrane packed enough drama and history to shame both Horatio Nelson and Sir Francis Drake.

Not only was he an audaciously brave, sword-waving warrior, boarding hundreds of enemy ships amid cannon smoke and wreaking assorted havoc with shoreside raiding parties and ship-stealing "cutting out" expeditions, he was also a reformist gadfly in Parliament, a tireless tinkerer and inventor of everything from poison gas and tunneling techniques to electrical insulation, an author and pamphleteer, a pioneering advocate of both rocket bombardment and a steam-powered navy, and, just for good measure, a major on-the-scene player in the liberation of Chile and Peru from the Spanish, Brazil from the Portuguese and Greece from the Turks. He was the perfect romantic hero for the romantic age. Wrote Lord Byron: "There is no man I envy so much as Lord Cochrane."

O'Brian fans will find great satisfaction in smoking out similarities and differences between Cochrane and Aubrey.
We've previously mentioned that the Aubrey/Maturin novels are especially good iPod fare, since one of their greatest charms--that they are written as if the reader were present early in the 18th century and thoroughly familiar with the vocabulary of the sea--can also make them slow reading at times. Not only are the readings--by Patrick Tull--excellent in their own right, but since he doesn't slow down to puzzle out terms you don't either. You just have to follow along from the context. You may miss a bit here and there, but, in exchange, you don't get bogged down.

But this Summer I was listening to Desolation Island and Aubrey and Maturin spend so much time on land and set out on such a mundane voyage--transporting folks to Australia--that it started to become a concern that the narrative was just too slow to even walk to. Then, all of a sudden, the Dutch ship Waakzaamheid attacks when they're in the far south and seas are running so high that it quickly becomes clear that one or the other ship must perish with all hands, since conditions preclude capture. Here the pace was so quick and the sense of dread so palpable--Jack Aubrey is genuinely outraged by the murderous nature of the attack, which is all out of proportion with his more English understanding of the niceties of war--that the listener/reader can hardly slow down as the action unfolds. This scene is so terrifying it puts the shark attacks in Jaws and the shower scene in Psycho near to shame. Thanks to Aubrey's horror at his action, the Dutch captain -- though we never meet him -- seems as cold-blooded as Bruce or as homicidally crazy as Norman. It's extraordinary story-telling.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Patrick O'Brian (5 books reviewed)
Sea Stories
Patrick O'Brian Links:

    -OBIT: Patrick O'Brian: Prolific novelist whose voyage into privacy meshed with the odyssey of his sea-going characters (January 8, 2000, The Guardian )
    -ESSAY: Full Nelson: Outmanned and outgunned, the British flummoxed the French. (PATRICK O'BRIAN, 4/18/99, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Cast away Three years after his death, his acclaimed seafaring novels are still bestsellers and have just been made into a blockbuster movie. But recent revelations about how Patrick O'Brian abandoned his family have cast a shadow over his work. (Richard Russ, November 28, 2003, The Guardian)
   
-IN MEMORIAM: PATRICK O'BRIAN: Senior Correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth is in San Francisco, remembering a man who wrote about the sea. (Online Newshour, January 10, 2000)
    -OBIT: Patrick O'Brian: Prolific novelist whose voyage into privacy meshed with the odyssey of his sea-going characters (Guardian, January 8, 2000)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: Patrick O'Brian: With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times
    -ESSAY: An Author I'd Walk the Plank For (Richard Snow, January 6, 1991, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: The Humble Genre Novel, Sometimes Full of Genius (David Mamet, 1/17/00, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: A Master and the World He Commands: Pondering Patrick O'Brian and his nautical novels, before Russell Crowe takes over. (MAX HASTINGS, November 7, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
    -OBIT: Patrick O'Brian, Whose 20 Sea Stories Won Him International Fame, Dies at 85 (FRANK J. PRIAL, 1/07/00, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Gone Aloft (Derek Brown, 1/07/00, The Guardian)
    -Featured Author: Patrick O'Brian: With News and Reviews From the Archives of The New York Times
    -ESSAY: Full Nelson: Outmanned and outgunned, the British flummoxed the French. (PATRICK O'BRIAN, NY Times)
   
-INTERVIEW: Conversations/Patrick O'Brian; In the Glare of the Short-Toed Eagle, Or What You Read Is All You'll Get (FRANCIS X. CLINES, November 14, 1993, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW: The Seas of Adventure Still Beckon a Storyteller; At 83, Patrick O'Brian Journeys Into History (FRANK J. PRIAL, October 19, 1998, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Patrick O'Brian: The author of the wildly popular 18th century seagoing saga created, out of his own life, a fiction nearly as elaborate. (IAN WILLIAMS, 1/13/00, Salon)
    -APPRECIATION: The Humble Genre Novel, Sometimes Full of Genius (DAVID MAMET, 1/17/00, NY Times)
    -ESSAY: The real master and commander: The swashbuckling novels of Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester owe much of their inspiration to one man: Lord Cochrane, a seafaring scot whose life was marked by adventure, adulation and scandal. David Cordingly reports (David Cordingly, 02 Sep 2007, The Telegraph)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Master and Deceiver: Patrick O'Brian, the celebrated author behind the new film "Master and Commander", has been branded a callous, deceitful and arrogant bully. His stepson, Nikolai Tolstoy, says the truth is much more complex (Nikolai Tolstoy, 11/30/03, Times of London)
    -ESSAY: Nautical novelist 'couldn't even sail' (James Landale, 8/16/04, BBC News)
    -ESSAY: Cruising with Patrick O'Brian - The Man and the Myth (Tom Perkins, Latitude 38)
   
-FAN SITE: The Gun Room: @HMSSurprise.org: which it's the Patrick O'Brian list of the world!
    -APPRECIATION: An Author I'd Walk the Plank For (Richard Snow, January 06, 1991, NY Times)
    -INTERVIEW: The HistoryAccess.com Interview: Geoff Hunt (Bob Frost, 1993)
    -ESSAY: Science at sea: What the novels of Patrick O'Brian can teach us (Stephen Curry 6 April 2008, LabLit)
    -REVIEW: of Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian (Jan Morris, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Patrick O'Brian: The Making of a Novelist by Nikolai Tolstoy (Joseph O'Connor, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Patrick O'Brian: the Making of a Novelist by Nikolai Tolstoy (John Lanchester, The Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Patrick O'Brian: The Making of a Novelist by Nikolai Tolstoy (Rachel Cooke, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Patrick O'Brian: The Making of a Novelist by Nikolai Tolstoy (Max Hastings, The Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of The Aubrey/Maturin books: Master and Commander & The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian ( Danny Yee, dannyreviews.com)
   
-REVIEW ARCHIVES: Aubrey Maturin series (Ex Libris Reviews)
    -ARCHIVES: Patrick O'Brian (NY Times)

Book-related and General Links:

Comments: