The Commodore (Vol. Book 17) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels)
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The seventeenth novel in the best-selling Aubrey/Maturin series of naval tales, which the New York Times Book Review has described as "the best historical novels ever written."
Having survived a long and desperate adventure in the Great South Sea, Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin return to England to very different circumstances. For Jack it is a happy homecoming, at least initially, but for Stephen it is disastrous: his little daughter appears to be autistic, incapable of speech or contact, while his wife, Diana, unable to bear this situation, has disappeared, her house being looked after by the widowed Clarissa Oakes.
Much of The Commodore takes place on land, in sitting rooms and in drafty castles, but the roar of the great guns is never far from our hearing. Aubrey and Maturin are sent on a bizarre decoy mission to the fever-ridden lagoons of the Gulf of Guinea to suppress the slave trade. But their ultimate destination is Ireland, where the French are mounting an invasion that will test Aubrey's seamanship and Maturin's resourcefulness as a secret intelligence agent.
The subtle interweaving of these disparate themes is an achievement of pure storytelling by one of our greatest living novelists.
on the yards and polishing everything that could be induced to take a shine, so that they might strike soundings fully prepared to sail home in glory. But for all of these days the breeze had been contrary, and although the Surprise - even more so the schooner - could have beaten up to good effect, working a great way to windward, they had been kept back by their unweatherly companion. And now they were far into this dirty night, this filthy goddam night, with their beautifully painted topsides
being spoilt by spray, when they might have been bowsing up their jibs ashore; or at least the Surprises might, they being from Shelmerston, a little place much closer than the Berenice's Portsmouth. Feeling ran high, especially on the Surprise's quarterdeck, where an unusually vicious blast, cutting against the tide on its turn, had soaked all hands; but below, in the great cabin, the two captains sat unmoved as the Berenice floundered along under topsails and courses, shipping a great deal of
tray of glasses. He looked quickly about: his face changed from its unnatural expression of amiability, with a fixed smirk, to its more usual pinched severity, and with a secret nod he hurried out. It was a long-established rule in the Navy that the higher a sailor rose in rank the later he was fed. As a midshipman Jack Aubrey, like the ratings, had eaten at noon. When he was made a lieutenant, he and his fellow-members of the wardroom mess dined at one; when he commanded his own ship he ate
was only the respite caused by the setting of the sun, and the reviving breeze carried them well up into the Pool before the downward current had gathered any real strength. Here, to the relief of all hands, they dropped anchor: Reade looked at his watch, laughed aloud, and gave the formal order 'Pipe to supper.' There was a fair amount of traffic on the river - ship-visiting among the scores of merchantmen, citizens going about their business, parties of pleasure dropping down to Greenwich -
hit upon the very type of happiness Killick went on, 'Just what happened Nan could not tell, but it was to do with that there silk the Captain bought in Java and that we made Mrs Oakes's wedding dress out of.' 'I sewed its bodice,' said Bonden. 'Well, that only took part of the bolt and the rest was brought home as intended in the first place. So Mrs A wore it to this dinner where there was Parson Hinksey and some other gent: and when she came back she tore it off - said she would never wear