Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by hotel_california, Jan 31, 2013.
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Is it worth a read? Will I, a fan of the series be disappointed?
I found it a little too dry and full of detail, but as I've got the attention span of a
I'm going back through the series for a 2nd time.
I've never been interested in the RN in the same way that I've had an interest in the Army, but the Aubrey books are a good yarn and fascinating from an historical point of view.
O'Brian knows his Napoleonic era inside out, from the history, naval actions, and minutiae of daily shipboard life. He does use a LOT of techincal naval terms, but usuallly manages to slip in an explanation somewhere later on. (Although if the publishers brought out an illustrated A-Z of ship terms like cat-heads and cross catharpings I'd buy a copy).
I have become a great admirer of what the Andrew could do in those days- they were almost the special forces of the time, going ashore to take batteries or cut-out ships, or hauling 2 ton canon up a mountain using ropes.
I would say that the very first book in the series, 'Master and Commander' takes about 80 pages before it gets going - but stick with it.
Maybe so, but all fiction of the era projects the current era navy back to Nelsonic times. So the behaviour of officers and men reflects current values, not the ones of the times. For example:
-- The navy would court martial officers deemed too friendly with the crew
-- Crews liked aristocratic officers - one ship actually petitioned the Admiralty for a different captain on the grounds the current one was the son of a baker.
-- Discipline did not extend to on shore: there are recorded cases of disgruntled crew members beating up over-harsh officers and the Admiralty saying that as the officer was on half-pay it was a civil and not a military offence.
To see what skills were required by a seaman I heartily recommend "Seamanship in the Age of Sail: An Account of the Shiphandling of the Sailing Man-of-war, 1600-1860, Based on Contemporary Sources" by Harland and Myers.
And for the real life Hornblower read "Autobiography of a Seaman" by Thomas Cochrane (Lord) Dundonald. Cochrane's exploits are scarcely believable but really happened and were the inspiration for Hornblower, Ramage, Aubery, etc.
For real source material join the Navy Records Society.
The Navy Records Society - Home
Their publications provide much of the information used by novelists.
Try reading Nelson's biography, the truth is more fantastic and eloquent than the fiction. He did the whole hauling cannons up hills, sailing through French fleets in fog and being chased by a larger number of enemy for real. The man was nuts.
I bought a Cochrane biography after reading O'Brian through the first time, and could see where O'Brian got a lot of his ideas. iPods did creep into mind on occasion.
Some people read books for entertainment.
Strange as it may seem.
As was Sir Sydney Smith RN. Almost universaly hated by most of the RN!
For a real "nutter" Sir Nesbit Josiah Willoughby takes some beating. Feared by his men as much as the enemy, nicknamed "The Immortal", he was retired from the RN "for the sake of his own health". He holds the dubious distinction of being the Navy's most wounded sailor. "He was eleven times wounded with balls, three times with splinters, and cut in every part of his body with sabres and tomahawkes: his face was disfigured by explosions of gunpowder, and he lost an eye and had part of his neck and jaw shot away... and at Leipzig had his right arm shattered by cannon shot".
Edited to add: He was also court martialled four times. Three times for cruelty to his men, I understand. .
The man was a hypochondriac, vain, egotistical, could behave with a total lack of common sense and was utterly dismissive of the great majority of the more senior admirals he reported to (Hood and Jervis excepted).
He also inspired immense devotion in virtually every man who served under him, was totally uncaring of his personal safety, was a master strategist and was a tactician of genius.
He was the most destructive admiral in history - the butcher's bill in the ships and fleets that opposed him is a terrible one.
And finally, the skills of commanding and sailing an old wooden battle fleet have gone for ever. We now lack the knowledge to fully appreciate the immense range of command and technical skills Nelson had.
To answer the OP's question as to volume 21 - the first three chapters in draft only - I can only recommend it if you want to sit there feeling equal sadness at the absence of more and frustration that the draft tees up another cracking yarn.
This is why I posed the question! Thank you. I always looked forward to the next installment and was never disappointed. It would be a shame to end on a note as you described.
Good advice for those embarking on an Aubrey voyage.
Cochrane point well made - a real player.
doug reeman as alexander kent is still writing his bolitho books, having killed one off he is on the nephew now which freshened it up a bit he is though getting on a bit and I think he killed the first one off to avoid obriens fate and dudley pope who died halfway through the napoleonic wars (characterwise).
dewey lambdin is still going strong along with a few others I've yet to get into.
reading the post hornblower books you realise how basic cs forester was. you can tell how he didn't like hornblower but wrote the books to pay the rent. unlike the others who go into such detail you know they love the subject. its also good to find an author who avoids the battles and conflicts his competitors have allready mapped out.
richard woodman is another who managed closure on his drinkwater series.
I like a good novel, but I rapidly lose interest when I spot basic errors of fact. Ditto films. So in our Secret Santa at work, some bastard brought me the video of 'Master and Commander' just for the pleasure of having me froth at the mouth.
I actually wrote a novel of the time based on verified historical fact - only to have it rejected by a number of publishers on the grounds that although it was very readable, it would not sell to the Hornblower/Ramage/Aubery market because it was so different from the current books in the genre.
But each to their own...
I think it was Alexander Kent who had a chapter entitled; The Queer Man.
He also mentions a Midshipman Pascoe, no doubt of Trafalgar fame as he's the chap who sent the famous message. In one part the cap'n, midshipman and some other bloke are locked together in a prison. The solution? Get the boy to strip butt naked whilst the men rub him down with grease and try to forcibly stuff him through a tight hole to escape.
Rum, sodomy and the lash...
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