The Nutmeg of Consolation (Aubrey/Maturin Novels, 14) (Book 14)

by Patrick O'Brian

Paperback, 1993



Call number




W. W. Norton & Company (1993), 384 pages


Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML: Shipwrecked on a remote island in the Dutch East Indies, Captain Jack Aubrey, surgeon and secret intelligence agent Stephen Maturin, and the crew of the Diane fashion a schooner from the wreck. Though a vicious attack by Malay pirates is repulsed, the makeshift vessel burns, and Aubrey and his crew are truly marooned. Their escape from this predicament is one that only the whimsy and ingenuity of Patrick O'Brianâ??or Stephen Maturinâ??could devise. In command now of a new ship, the Nutmeg, Aubrey pursues his interrupted mission. The dreadful penal colony in New South Wales, harrowingly described, is the backdrop to a diplomatic crisis provoked by Maturin's Irish temper and to a near-fatal encounter with the wildlife of the Australian outback… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
The Nutmeg of Consolation, Patrick O’Brian’s fourteenth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, picks up shortly after the events of The Thirteen Gun Salute, with Captain Jack Aubrey and the crew of the Diane shipwrecked and building a cutter out of the remains of their former ship. They come under
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attack from local pirates and fend them off, though at great cost to their supplies. Fortunately, a Chinese trading vessel arrives and Dr. Stephen Maturin is able to negotiate their passage to Batavia. There, Governor Raffles provides Aubrey a raised Dutch ship, which he rechristens Nutmeg of Consolation after one of the royal titles of the Sultan of Pulo Prabang. Jack takes the ship to engage the French ship, Cornélie, which he believes will water at Nil Desperandum. He engages her and leads her a chase, being saved from disaster at the last minute through the arrival of Thomas Pullings in the Surprise along with the Triton. They win the day and send the Nutmeg back to Batavia.

Aubrey, Stephen, and others transfer back to the Surprise and continue on to New South Wales. They find conditions in the penal colony shocking and the general corruption daunting. Having run out of his coca leaves, Stephen finds himself on-edge and ends up in a duel with Captain Lowe, who insulted the Irish to no end. Fortunately, Stephen wins and receives happy news. He visits Padeen Colman, who had been transported following earlier events resulting from his addiction to laudanum. Stephen plans to help Padeen escape, but Aubrey warns him against it due to the delicate position in which the Surprise finds itself vis-Ă -vis local politics. Stephen travels to the arranged meeting place in order to view duck-billed platypuses, successfully capturing one, only to be poisoned by its spurs. When the Surprise arrives, Padeen is brought aboard with the shore party, where Stephen recovers.

At one point, Stephen, Mr. Martin, and Paulton discuss novels, allowing O’Brian to describe his philosophy for endings. Through Stephen, he writes, “There is another Frenchman whose name escapes me but who is even more to the point: La bêtise c’est de vouloir conclure. The conventional ending, with virture rewarded and loose ends tied up is often sadly chilling; and its platitude and falsity tend to infect what has gone before, however excellent. Many books would be far better without their last chapter: or at least with no more than a brief, cool, unemotional statement of the outcome” (pg. 242). This perfectly captures many of O’Brian’s endings.

Like the previous sevel novels, The Nutmeg of Consolation exists outside the normal flow of time – this novel being the eighth of twelve to exist in what O’Brian described as an extended 1812, with these dozen books taking place between the beginning of June 1813 and November 1813. Those looking for a perfect chronology are advised to simply enjoy the story and the way in which O’Brian perfectly recreates the world of the Napoleonic Wars, using Aubrey and Stephen’s activities to comment on the rapid changes occurring in this era and the passage of time in the series’ internal chronology. This Folio Society edition reprints the original text with insets containing historical portraits and sketches to illustrate some of the scenes.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Another romp through the southern oceans for Aubrey and Maturin: escape from a desolate island, a complicated plan to overtake a French frigate, rendezvous with old friends, and then a visit to Botany Bay (where Maturin has an unexpected run-in with a much-sought Australian critter). The
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description of penal-colony Australia is well drawn, and O'Brian's witty humor and good storytelling are as present here as in the other volumes.
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LibraryThing member iayork
great series of books: If you are interested in sailing, British naval history, or the high seas... then this is a great historical fiction series. The single movie doesn't really do justice to this excellent series of novels.
LibraryThing member jckeen
One of many in the Aubrey-Maturin Series. I chose The Nutmeg of Consolation simply because it is my favorite title in the series (what the heck does it mean anyway? You have to read the book before it to get it.)

All of the books in the series are great. The first one, Master and Commander, is tough
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to get through--especially if you don't speak 18th Century British Navy. By the time you hit the second book, you get the hang of it. The jargon becomes second nature and you can focus on the beautiful story lines.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Things that stood out for me in this novel included the descriptions of life in Botany Bay (penal colony in Australia) and the matter-of-factness of being shipwrecked. I have a romantic view of Australia - but Mr. O'Brian paints a dismal view of conditions there for prisoners. And it always amazes
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me that a shipwreck doesn't seem to phase Jack and his crew. They are always confident that things will work out. Mr O'Brian continues to amuse (but you have to read carefully to catch some of the jokes)!
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LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
The ship rats get into Stephen's coca leaves and become addicts! Ship wrecks! Jack and Stephen sail to Australia! Stephen thinks he's lost his fortune, and finds out that Diana has had a daughter!

Lots of great character moments, and the writing when Stephen is contemplating his great happiness at
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the end of the book is truly lovely. It does kind of randomly end, though.
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LibraryThing member elenchus
In which Aubrey and Maturin survive the typhoon which wrecked Diane, and with remaining crew command a salvaged Dutch frigate in pursuit of French Cornelie. While the long game remains to disrupt Spanish chicanery in South America, the immediate objective is the Cornelie and reuniting with Pullings
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in Surprise. Events open precisely where the last volume left off, with first Nutmeg and then Surprise sailing from East Indies to Australia.


Stephen withstands several reversals of fortune, striving to maintain an even keel throughout. Jack reveals in letter to Sophie his idea of purchasing Surprise from Stephen, with prize money from American merchants. Stephen puts down Lowe handily with a sword in a duel after Lowe insults Stephen at Government House, leading to much friction with Surprise through remainder of stay at Port Jackson. Stephen and Martin go on walkabout, and Stephen is bit by a courting platypus.

Joined by two old hands, Adams from Lively who comes aboard as Jack's clerk, and Stephen's old mate Padeen. Two stranded mids are picked up in Java, Miller and Oakes, and while rated do not serve as midshipmen. Jack does his level best to avoid killing Christy-Palliere's son, Pierrot (Jean-Pierre Demesnil) in a cutting out action in waters east of Borneo. Jack receives a letter from his son, Sam, now a vicar. Stephen unexpectedly meets his cousin James FitzGerald while visiting Lady McQuarrie. Sarah & Emily Sweeting taken aboard, sole survivors of smallpox after whalers visit their village on Sweeting Island. Stephen learns from an old patient Diana's had a daughter.
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LibraryThing member kslade
Can't complain. Another good one. No sea battle in this one though. Interesting about Australia.
Nutmeg is a sweet temporary ship.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

384 p.; 8.3 inches


0393309061 / 9780393309065
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