Monday, 26 August 2013

H.M.S. Surprise, by Patrick O'Brian

4.5 stars

The more time I spend in the company of Aubrey and Maturin, the more enamoured I become - it's rapidly become one of my biggest pleasures to run off to sea with them whenever life is a little trying. I've still no idea what in the gibbering flip is being said whenever we start in with the mizens and stuns'ls, but somehow I'm still managing to follow what's happening in those brilliant storms, chases and sea battles, and loving every second of it.

I loved this instalment even more than previously, as we climb aboard the HMS Surprise and head off to India, but not before stopping off in a number of other places for the wonderful Dr Maturin to indulge in his passion - whether that be natural history, or that bloody Villiers woman. Quite a large part of the focus in this book is Stephen and I think it's all the better for it. I could spend entire chapters reading of nothing but him being brilliant and bitchy - though that isn't his only charm. By this point I have become a total Maturin fan-girl, and spend most of my time now reading like this:

I'm about one book away from doodling his name on my pencil case...

Elsewhere, we get some nicely contemplative and emotional moments in amongst the thunder of the waves and the guns, such as Jack's quiet unease at the efficient killing during a battle and his white-washing of it in his letter home, and the culmination of Stephen's friendship with little Dil. The small glimpses into how certain things were viewed and tolerated, or not, in society at that point are also always interesting, with the view of Diana Villiers by 'polite' society contrasting with the rampant racism and routine offers of young children to do with as you wish...

The end of each of these books always comes too soon for me, so I'm very glad to see it's such a long series, ensuring I have a reliable reading refuge for a very long time to come.

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