21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey: Including Facsimile of the Manuscript (Book 21)

by Patrick O'Brian

Hardcover, 2004



Call number




W. W. Norton & Company (2004), Edition: 1st, 144 pages


Blue at the Mizzen (novel #20) ended with Jack Aubrey getting the news, in Chile, of his elevation to flag rank: Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron, with orders to sail to the South Africa station. The next novel, unfinished and untitled at the time of the author's death, would have been the chronicle of that mission, and much else besides. The three chapters left on O'Brian's desk at the time of his death are presented here both in printed version-including his corrections to the typescript-and a facsimile of his manuscript, which goes several pages beyond the end of the typescript to include a duel between Stephen Maturin and an impertinent officer who is courting his fiancee. Of course we would rather have had the whole story; instead we have this proof that O'Brian's powers of observation, his humor, and his understanding of his characters were undiminished to the end.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member psiloiordinary
A fascinating glimpse into the mind and writing process of Patrick O'Brian. Not really for anyone else.

I loved it. But tinged with such sadness that he never finished it. I'm somehow reassured that I have placed my fandom in the right place when I see just how much attention to detail went into
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each book. The half finished sketch of the table seating plan on the last handwritten page caught me out . . .

If you haven't tried these books yet then please do so, for if you like them you will like them a great deal.
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LibraryThing member duende

I started the first book in this series in January, and determined to read through them all by the end of the year. (Could have read them all in a much shorter time, of course, but I wanted to draw it out, and make the experience last as long as possible. But, now its over, and I'm not
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This last entry in a wonderful series is only three chapters. Less, really, as O'Brian stopped mid-sentence, and died without finishing it. Still, he left us with all our beloved friends seemingly healthy, and happy, and with much to look forward to. Really, in a way, its the best sort of ending, as the lack of resolution allows the reader the freedom to imagine what happens next. I'm sad that I'll never read another tale of Aubrey and Maturin, and their adventures on the sea, but so very happy for the 20 and a partial volumes we spent together.
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LibraryThing member wispywillow
The 5 stars is for all of Patrick O'Brian's works. Patrick O'Brian, thank you for these wonderful literary characters and their friendship. The past few years in which I have read these books for the first time have been a treat, and I look forward to re-reading them.

Also, I think "21" is a fitting
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place to end this series. The author deserves a "21"-gun salute.

Rest in peace.
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LibraryThing member ASBiskey
I give this three stars for two reasons: first, it is very short, and second the portion that is only available as a handwritten manuscript is enourmously difficult to decipher. Both of these, while no ones fault, seriously diminish the value of this volume. That being said, I would recommend this
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to anyone who has enjoyed O'Brian's other Aubrey-Maturin books. The storytelling is on par with all of the other works, and it is interesting to see the writing process.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This book is interesting because it includes both copies of the handwritten pages and the typed pages Mr. O'Brian left behind. The forward points out places where the story has been re-worked and polished and points out some of the things that make O'Brian prose so accomplished. The story itself is
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a tantalizing glimpse of what surely would have been another welcome episode in the series. There are lovely moments of friendship and we even get to see the extended family. I wish I could read the handwritten pages, but my skills at deciphering them are limited.
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LibraryThing member rosieclaverton
This has four stars only because it is unfinished - yet Jack and Stephen sail on together, forever.
LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
Patrick O’Brian’s Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey, his intended twenty-first book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, picks up shortly after the events of Blue at the Mizzen, with Admiral Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin sailing His Majesty’s Hydrographical Vessel Surprise up the the
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River Plate in Brazil, for Aubrey to join the South African squadron and formally hoist his pennant as Rear Admiral of the Blue. Along the way, Stephen continues to write a serial letter to Christine Wood, to whom he proposed marriage in the previous novel. In Brazil, the crew finds sentiment much against the Royal Navy, especially as a local uprising is in the works. The Vatican has sent a legate to calm tensions and Jack finds to his great joy that it’s his son, Samuel Mputa, whom he fathered while a midshipman and only met much later in The Reverse of the Medal, and who is recently installed as Papal Nuncio to the Republic of the Argentine.

With the arrival of the South African squadron, Jack repairs aboard HMS Suffolk, hoists his pennant, formally becoming Rear Admiral Aubrey. Finding the ship somewhat undermanned, he endeavors to bring aboard those Surprises who seek employ during the peace. Meeting Commander-in-Chief Admiral Lord Leyton, Jack finds him a hard man, though he avoids any lasting conflict. Sending Surprise and Ringle back to England, Jack sends for Sophie and his girls while Stephen sends for his daughter, Brigid, and his paramour Christine Wood. Unfortunately, Jack’s daughters had not got on with Brigid, but the sea travel gives her time to resist their bullying. From there, Jack takes the time to practice the Suffolk’s guns before he and Stephen repair aboard Admiral Leyton’s ship, there meeting with Captain Miller, a neighbor of Jack’s and cousin to Leyton. Leyton sends them to bring Miller to Saint Helena, where Napoleon now lives in his second exile and where Leyton plans to hold an interview with the former Emperor. Here O’Brian’s typed manuscript ends midsentence, though the handwritten manuscript continues on, describing a duel between Stephen and Captain Miller after Miller assumed an overfamiliarity with Christine Wood.

In many ways, The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey recalls the published collections of J.R.R. Tolkien’s notes or his Unfinished Tales. It gives a sense of how he intended to continue the series prior to his death, with some sections sketched out and others more nearly complete. The book also features both a facsimile of his handwritten manuscript and his typed copy, allowing those who are so inclined to study something of his method as an author. For O’Brian’s longstanding fans, this manuscript offers a pleasant send-off. While it is impossible to say what he intended for his characters’ futures, O’Brian’s manuscript leaves them with hope and a fair wind on the horizon.
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LibraryThing member nhlsecord
Good addition to the series, and very sad to know that it is the last one. The edition includes O'Brian's hand written manuscript. I am delighted to have this volume.


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Physical description

144 p.; 10.3 inches


039306025X / 9780393060256
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