Pullings held up the lantern and said in a neutral voice, ‘It is a young woman I believe, sir.’
After a stay in New South Wales, which the crew found more harrowing than a fleet action, the Surprise has set her course for Easter Island. On board ship are two escaped convicts: Padeen, Stephen’s Irish servant, and a very unusual young woman – Clarissa Oakes. Her presence puts Jack in an awkward position, and his long-held disapproval of women on board (troublesome, unlucky creatures, capable of using fresh water to wash their clothes) is proved well founded when rivalry for her favours causes intense ill-feeling between the officers. Clarissa herself holds the clue to a problem that has obsessed Stephen for several years – the identity of a highly placed traitor. Yet eager as he is to use this information, first the Surprise must intervene in a war on the island of Moahu.
A broad selection of prints, sketches and paintings have been selected to illustrate this book, many of them sourced from libraries in Australia and New Zealand and showing not only the near-at-hand Norfolk Island, but also the Sandwich and Friendly Islands, with scenes of early contact between French or English ships and indigenous peoples.
Read more about the life and work of Patrick O'Brian
In 1991, an article appeared in The New York Times entitled ‘An Author I’d Walk the Plank For’. Like millions of readers around the world, the writer, Richard Snow, had become addicted to Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series. Set against the sprawling canvas of the Napoleonic Wars, O’Brian’s naval adventure novels evoke this period in history like no others. Their success is down to the vim and vigour of O’Brian’s prose, his extraordinary eye for period detail and his ear for language. In Snow’s words: ‘O’Brian summoned up with casual omniscience the workaday magic of a vanished time.’
The partnership between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is at the heart of Patrick O’Brian’s masterful series. Beyond the beautifully textured period setting and the thrilling skirmishes and naval battles (many based on real events), the popularity of the novels stems from these two engaging, intriguing protagonists, with Aubrey’s passionate nature providing a marvellous foil for Maturin’s more enigmatic character. Two centuries may separate us from them, but O’Brian creates an utterly compelling portrait of two men and a world at war.