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.
the entrance to the harbour, lying there to a stream-anchor with brailed-up topsails until there should be enough water on the bar to let the deep-laden frigate over without a scrape, and the people lined her side, gazing landwards. More than half of them were from Shelmerston, and they pointed out all changes and everything that remained as it had always been. Some of the few Anglicans aboard cried out that the weather-vane on their parish church, a basking-shark, had had its tail renewed: the
sure; and l am prodigiously obliged to you, Jack. I dare not come down on Melville at this point: it would be different if he loved me as much as he loves you, but the last time he showed me out of the door he called me an infernal trundle-thrift whoremonger and condemned me to this vile New Holland voyage in the Berenice.' Heneage's elder brother, Lord Melville, was at the head of the Admiralty, and he could do such things. 'No. The judgment was for five hundred odd - the same young person, I am
as no one ever mentions the actual date, the ministry feels quite safe. All I can say is that there is not a moment to be lost. You must attend to your medical stores directly, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.' 'Gentlemen,' said Stephen to his assistants in their splendid new sick-berth, full of light and air, furnished with capacious dispensaries, port and starboard, 'I believe we may now cross off the antimonials, jalap and camphire, the eight yards of Welsh linen bandage, and the
smelling of salt and tar and slow-match, he could not tell. The still-life changed as he contemplated it, changed quite surprisingly with the appearance of a small boy who dropped bodily through a hatchway right forward and came running aft. 'There you are, sir,' he cried, perfectly sure of his welcome. 'I have been looking for you everywhere. Commodore's compliments, if you please, and should be happy to see Dr Maturin on the poop at his leisure.' 'Thank you, Mr Wetherby: pray tell the
trousers for the run up to the South Foreland; white shirt and neckcloth for London and decent black breeches; best wig tucked down in the right-hand forward corner.' He stumped off, and could be heard shoving the chest about, telling his mate 'to look alive, there, Bill.' 'As for my collections,' said Stephen, referring to the many barrels and crates in the hold, containing the specimens of an ardent natural philosopher whose interests ranged from cryptograms to the larger mammals, by way of