JUNE GROUP READ - Master and Commander

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JUNE GROUP READ - Master and Commander

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1rhian_of_oz
Jun 7, 2019, 4:01pm

Please feel free to join Anki (shadrach_anki) and me as we read the first of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, inspired by Betty's (bragan) review of The Surgeon's Mate (number seven).

I originally bought this in 2017 on the recommendation of a fellow in my bookclub. I got just under halfway through it when (for some forgotten reason) I put it aside and didn't pick it up again.

2shadrach_anki
Jun 7, 2019, 5:53pm

I got my first copy of this book back in 2008, almost certainly on recommendation from a friend after I saw the movie based on the series. At the time I got only part of the way through the book, then for unremembered reasons set it aside. It sat on my shelves for years, and then...I donated my copy in one of my periodic "let's go through the books and try to be mindful of things" phases. That was several years back.

I picked up a new copy of the book (without the movie-inspired cover, this time around) just the other day. While I could have gotten it from the library, somehow that didn't feel quite right to me, for this book. I have to say I love the Geoff Hunt covers, and I am really looking forward to reading this!

3rhian_of_oz
Jun 11, 2019, 3:48pm

I'm about halfway through Chapter 1 so far and I'm quite amused by the manners - which seem both better and worse than present day. In the first scene Maturin elbows Aubrey while they're listening to some music (worse), and then when they encounter each other the next day they're all apologies and very cordial (better).

4bragan
Editado: Jun 13, 2019, 7:07pm

>1 rhian_of_oz: Hey, glad to see you guys actually starting with this! I'm happy to have inspired it, and hope you enjoy the book. (Although I definitely stand by my opinion that it's book 2 where the appeal of the series really becomes clear, so I certainly recommend going on with it at least that far.)

5shadrach_anki
Jun 17, 2019, 2:30pm

I have just gotten into Chapter 7, and I am so very glad that Stephen knows nothing of ships and is willing to ask questions, because the explanations get a little bit clearer when he is on scene. :) I am also very glad to have a good dictionary, and it has been getting a fair amount of exercise as I look up one word, then one of the words from the definition of that word, then a third word from the definition of that word....

6rhian_of_oz
Jun 17, 2019, 2:53pm

I'm just at the beginning of Chapter Six and had the same thoughts regarding Stephen, that is having a new-to-sailing character is a good way for the author to deliver details to the reader.

I have also been looking things up as I've gone along, though not everything I didn't know. I'm a bit ambivalent about it - on the one hand I understand the language is authentic to the time, on the other I am continually pulled out of the story by words I'm not familiar with and can't even necessarily guess at given the context.

I was amused by Dillon and Stephen's conversation towards the end of Chapter Five. Only someone who has never been poor would value honour over prize money! Though that whole conversation makes me think there may be some future conflict between Dillon and Aubrey.

7rhian_of_oz
Jun 21, 2019, 9:50am

I'm toward the end of Chapter Nine and am quite enjoying it. I like the development of Jack's character especially - I was expecting him to be a bit of a buffoon based on the beginning.

I'm also enjoying their 'encounters' with other vessels and the tactics displayed, while appreciating that the story is more than simply a 'boy's own adventure'.

I wasn't expecting it to be funny so that's a pleasant surprise. The scene in Chapter Eight when they're at dinner at the Harte's and Stephen retrieves his napkin from under the table gave me a giggle, including the aftermath when the ladies leave the table. Teehee!

8shadrach_anki
Jun 22, 2019, 4:09pm

I would argue that Jack is a bit of a buffoon...that's just in no way the sum total of his character. I actually finished the book on Thursday (the blessings of having a long-ish daily commute where I can listen to audiobooks). I've borrowed Post Captain from my public library, but it will be a bit before I can get to it. I went from having no library books checked out for the last two months to having all sorts of library books checked out this month, so I am having to prioritize.

There are a lot of funny scenes, and some where one event gets the payoff in a later scene. There's the bit in chapter six where Jack is watching the flogging of seven men for drunkenness and he reflects on the fact that either the men are getting into the spirit-room or someone had brought a store of liquor aboard. Then, in chapter seven, after the engagement with the Gloire when Jack is going to check on who is wounded, and Stephen has a grave complaint to make; someone has been at his asp, and drunk all the double-refined spirits of wine that it was stored in. I think I know where the sailors were getting their liquor. :D

I love the contrast between Jack and Stephen, and how they manage to make their friendship work, despite having largely different interests.

9rhian_of_oz
Jun 29, 2019, 12:01pm

I finally finished this, sorry it took me so long.

A handful of thoughts:
  • I wasn't expecting Mr Dillon to die, especially given there was no resolution of the "difference of opinion" between him and Jack. I'm half convinced O'Brian did it so he didn't have to come up with a resolution.

  • Jack's affair with Mrs Harte. Setting aside the question of the morality of it, Jack showed absolutely no political savvy. Which while frustrating is very consistent with his character.

  • The court martial. Given I knew there were more books in the series I was pretty sure how this was going to turn out so there was no tension in it for me.

  • I love the Sophies' song in Chapter 11 both because it's funny, and because of the loyalty it shows.

  • I wasn't able to visualise the battle scenes (especially those involving more than two ships) but I think I otherwise managed to follow them reasonably well.


  • Someone in my local Buy Nothing group was giving the whole series away but sadly I saw the post too late. So while I do intend to read the next one, it probably won't be for a while.