Patrick O'Brian,
The Fortune of War
(William Collins Sons & Co., 1979;
W.W. Norton, 1991)

War has broken out with America -- as if Napoleon isn't enough for Britain to handle -- and Capt. Jack Aubrey is eager to assume command of a new frigate and take the battle across the Atlantic. But the ship he, ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin and his other shipmates take to England -- as passengers, not crew -- catches fire at sea, and the resulting explosion leaves 13 men adrift in an 18-foot-long cutter far, far from land. The tale that follows will have you gasping for water through cracked and broken lips, and you'll never look at the sun the same way again ... but it's only the start of Aubrey and Maturin's misadventures in The Fortune of War.

Rescued by a British frigate, the seamen fast run afoul of the USS Constitution -- and soon our heroes find themselves in America under entirely different circumstances than they'd planned: as prisoners of war in Boston. But, while the heroically wounded Aubrey is confined to his bed in a private hospital, Maturin must deal with issues of intrigue and intelligence and, more's the pity, jealousy. There's treachery, assault, murder, a daring escape, courage and nobility at sea, romance -- and a sea battle that will make your heart swell with pride for Britain's once-great navy.

Patrick O'Brian writes historical fiction as easily as some folks might write their grocery lists -- and each novel in the series shapes and builds the Aubrey/Maturin legend in exciting new directions. As fast as I'm reading this series, I'll be very disappointed when I reach it's end! Meanwhile, I already have the next one ready to go.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 6 November 2004

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