'For my own part,' said Captain Aubrey, 'I have no notion of disliking a man for his beliefs, above all if he was born with them.'
The Surprise is in hot pursuit of an American privateer, The Franklin, when both ships are almost destroyed by a sudden eruption from a volcano. The Surprise take command of the prize before she founders – but in Monsieur Dutourd, the Franklin's owner, they discover an unlikely enemy. Dutourd’s subversive strain of democracy makes many converts amongst the seamen, and when the ships reach Peru, Dutourd's meddling puts Stephen in real danger. He is forced to escape across the Andes – an arduous trek that nearly ends in disaster, but is also filled with entirely new fauna to delight Stephen's heart. Jack's own adventures are no less arduous, and the difficulties of their expedition culminate in a lightning strike. No wonder that when they meet with their old friend Captain Dundas, he should say: ‘You have had a rough time of it, Jack’.
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.