Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Surgeon's Mate, by Patrick O'Brian

4 stars

Another fabulous instalment in the continued adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his BFF Dr Stephen Maturin that I hugely enjoyed, even if it was sadly interrupted by too much work and a new downstairs neighbour who likes to scream things that make no sense at regular intervals.

Having long been at sea, on landing in Nova Scotia Captain Aubrey has found himself having an ill-advised fling with a young flibbertigibbet who, as soon as he finally gets himself home again, is writing copious notes full of declarations of love and pregnancy, along with pleas for cash. He’s also up to the neck in legal business thanks to the sorry decision of becoming involved with a dodgy businessman. Meanwhile, Stephen is giving lectures to the Institut in Paris and finding a place there for the knocked up Diana Villiers – now considered an enemy alien thanks to her dalliance with the American Johnson. It’s just as well then that orders have arrived for Captain Aubrey to sail with Stephen on a most important mission – repatriating some Catalan soldiers who have been hitherto working for the French. Which is made especially difficult by bad weather, a missing chronometer, deadly bays, French ships eager to capture them, French captains eager to torture Stephen, and incarceration in imposing French prisons.

Of course, Jack and my beloved Stephen aren’t the sort to let that sort of thing get them down, and the book is as much of a riot as its predecessors. Once again, their friendship is the glue that holds this all together and I got a good deal of entertainment over Jack’s fretting for Stephen, whether he be on a dangerous spying mission or ill-advisedly clambering among the crosstrees with an equally clumsy lubber (and Jack’s reaction to Stephen and Jagiello’s little jaunt made me snort so hard that my cats scarpered).

I’m now seven books in to this wonderful series and the quality is as high as ever – and it now seems that I’m even becoming comfortable with the naval language that previously flummoxed me (check me out, knowing what a crosstree is! I never thought that would happen). These books are my treat to myself whenever I need picking up a bit – so if my neighbour continues to scream nonsense at me whenever she sees me, prepare to see much more of these popping up on my feed.


  1. I've only read the two first books from the series, but I really love it. Jack and Stephen are like two old friends you meet every time you pick the books. And I'm glad to know that you get used to the naval language, because it's one of the hardest thing I find about these series.

    1. Aren't they just? I actually miss them when I haven't read about them for a while!

      The language definitely seems to be growing on me as the series progresses. There are still some moment when I'm a bit at sea with it but thankfully there's usually a compassionate seaman to take pity on Stephen and explain what's happening to him, and even when it's particularly littered with naval terms I'm finding I can now generally follow the gist of what's going on. But even when I can't I find it doesn't diminish my enjoyment in the least.

      Here's hoping that you enjoy the rest of the series as much as I am.