Enough, already!

**WARNING: Once again I go on and on about Patrick O'Brian. If you're sick of reading about my teeny-bopper adulation please feel free to skip this post.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about Patrick O'Brian is that he managed to churn out no less than twenty books with the same characters and the same adventures, and somehow these books never feel stale or repetitive. I mean, let's face it. A naval battle is a naval battle. How much variation can there be?

Well, one of the (many) reasons he never grows stale is that he uses a huge variety of literary conventions or techniques to convey the action. For example, say the chapter ends with the lookout sighting an enemy ship. You turn the page to find out the result of the battle (because Captain Aubrey doesn't always win). Turn the page and you might find:

  • A detailed description of the engagement, manoeuvres, etc.
  • Captain Aubrey writing his log book entry: a very abbreviated version of the battle.
  • Captain Aubrey writing the official letter to his superiors: a detailed, stilted description bound to contain one or two solecisms.
  • Captain Aubrey struggling to write a description of the battle to his wife minus any references to violence whatsoever, so as not to alarm her.
  • Captain Aubrey visiting the sick bay.
  • Captain Aubrey handing out the prize money.
  • Dr. Maturin railing against the evils of war while eating toasted cheese with Captain Aubrey in the great cabin.
  • Captain Aubrey et al. having dinner with the captain and officers of the captured ship, because of course they are all gentlemen with no personal grudge against each other.
  • Captain Aubrey, back home six months later, defending his actions in a court-martial proceeding.
  • Captain Aubrey, back home six months later, receiving congratulations and huzzahs from all & sundry.
  • Dr. Maturin, back home six months later, debriefing with the Head of Naval Intelligence.
Whichever way, the end result is the same: you learn the outcome of the battle.


  • I've only read one of the Patrick O'Brian books, but I really enjoyed it. I told myself I would read more of them, but somehow, with my reading time so limited, I haven't managed it. The last couple of books I've read have been massive nineteenth century tomes-- I think I'll move on to something a little shorter next time!

    posted by Blogger Martha on 12:21 PM  

  • I love these books as well. There is a drinking game connected with these books. You drink whenever Dr. Maturin does some crazy non-seafarer thing. Or when a mainstay is mentioned. There are many many events for potential drinkage.

    posted by Anonymous adrienne on 11:04 PM  

  • Hey Julie...nice to see you back. I've been absent for too long; I'm looking forward to visiting more regularly.

    Have a great weekend!

    posted by Blogger Fred on 3:01 PM