Adventures in Bookland: Post Captain by Patrick O’Brian
Master and Commander was a wonderful beginning to the Aubrey/Maturin novels but reading it in the light of this, the second book in the series, it becomes clear that Patrick O’Brian wasn’t necessarily thinking of writing a twenty book series of oceangoing adventures when he wrote it. Master and Commander would have worked perfectly well as a standalone novel, with O’Brian going off to mine different literary seams, but with Post Captain it’s clear that he as a writer, as well as we readers, realise that it’s right here that he’s found the rich seam or, to employ a more nautical metaphor, found clear water and a following wind. With Post Captain, the series really takes off, in particular revealing both the sly humour that peppers the rest of the series (Jack Aubrey’s escape from France disguised as Stephen Maturin’s dancing bear balances on the edge of ludicrous before falling into the fields of delight) and the author’s ability to employ the language of the period to telling effect, making of it almost a seagoing, masculine companion to Jane Austen’s novels. Yes, it is that good.