The first novel in the Aubrey/Maturin series, Master and Commander, was published in 1969. If you enjoy this first book you can look forward to another twenty, the last of which is an unfinished manuscript.

The story is loosely based on historical events during the Napoleonic wars. Jack Aubrey is a likeable, cheerful fellow, a strict but not tyrannical captain, an adherent to naval tradition, and one hell of a sailor. He loves music and enjoys wit and humour (though he is no wit himself). While he is a genius at sea he is quite hopeless on land and easily falls into the hands of miserable shysters who fleece him of his hard-won gains. Known as “Lucky Jack” because of his success in taking prizes, he works his way up through the ranks of the Royal Navy.

His particular friend Stephen Maturin of Irish/Catalan descent and described as quite ugly in appearance, is a qualified physician and natural philosopher who has written a book about the treatment of sailors. His botanical studies and writings underpin his reputation as a brilliant scholar.

Jack and Stephen meet through music and it is this shared love that forms the foundation of their relationship as they spend many an evening at sea playing fiddle and cello together. Steven signs with Jack as ship’s surgeon so that he can visit far-off lands to pursue his research of flora and fauna. Stephen is also a spy for the British Admiralty and often finds himself in hairy situations.


O’Brian has created two wonderful characters with great depth and psychological insight; other minor characters are well-rounded. He describes every-day life aboard a fighting ship in detail, taking the reader in for a close look at how the navy functions. One of the most important aspects of his writing is his use of language. Here is an example of how he describes some rotters: “slack-arsed, bloody-minded, flute-playing, fiddle-scraping, present-seeking, tale-bearing, double-poxed hounds.” He uses many old-fashioned words and phrases no longer used today to add much colour to the narrative. While this enhances the pleasure of reading it can at times be confusing as the meaning is not always clear. He also goes into much detail about sailing and one has to persist in learning the nautical terminology or simply let it slip past like the water rushing along the side of the ship as Jack adds more sails to coax an extra knot’s speed in his chase of a fat prey. Just the same, I now  know the difference between a spritsail and a topgallant.

Master and Commander: Far Side of the World is also a 2003 film starring Russell Crowe as Jack and Paul Bettany as Stephen, which is based on three of the Aubrey/Maturin novels.

Richard Carroll

Where to obtain this book (and the rest of the series as well).

Hard back, paper back and Kindle ebook, Click here to go to Amazon Australia.

To get an ePub version, Click here.

A bit about the reviewer:

Richard Carroll grew up in Far North Queensland, Australia. In his younger days, he worked in a variety of jobs and travelled extensively around the world. He lived in France for 18 years where he had a short book on meditation published in French in 1992. In 2003 he had an environmental workbook for secondary students Ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples of the World published by Knowledge Books and Software in Brisbane. Richard obtained a BA at University of Queensland in 2006 with majors in Writing and Environmental Studies. He achieved first class Honours in 2009 at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with a memoir set in France. Richard completed a PhD in creative writing at QUT in 2014, which led to the publishing of the historical novel, Turrwan.

p.s. I shall be posting a review and details about where you can buy his last work in a short while.

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