|Picture borrowed from The World of Patrick O'Brian website.|
As a kid I used to enjoy reading tales of adventure and derring-do on the high seas. The defeat of the Spanish Armada, tall tales about various pirates, books on men-of-war - HMS Victory in particular - and accounts of Trafalgar all passed before the eyes at one point or another.
But sometime during the teenage years my tastes changed and gradually I forgot most of what I had read and even why I had read it in the first place.
An interest in stories naval was however recently rekindled when, after my wife gave me a well-known e-reader as a Christmas present, I discovered the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian amongst a massive stash of mobi-format books sent by a friend.
I hadn't read any of the books before, but having heard them mentioned favourably I started reading "Master and Commander".
It was an immediately engaging book. Witty and at times genuinely funny, O'Brian employed an array of voices and beautifully drawn actors to portray the character of a ship and the men who sailed and fought her. I was hooked from the beginning.
Over the next few months I read through the books one after another, rejoicing in Aubrey and Maturin's triumphs, laughing at their quirks and feeling their tragedies. I came to know them both: their loves and their families; their interests, hobby-horses, idiosyncrasies and struggles; their ships, shipmates, and enemies; and, as far as you can with fictional persons, what was in their hearts.
Last week I finished the last of the series, "Blue at the Mizzen", and have been pining a little, in the way you can when something that you don't want to end eventually must.
If the books are taken as single items they are not going to come across as masterpieces. But when read as part of a whole they have a cumulative effect that is wonderful. I can't remember having laughed as much at any books since I was a kid reading Billy Bunter, nor having been as deeply moved by scenes since I first read Lord of the Rings way back when I was ten.
Although I'm writing this as an author of the month post, in Patrick O'Brian's case it should really be author of the year.