The Commodore

by Patrick O'Brian

Hardcover, 1995

Call number




W. W. Norton (1995), Edition: 1st, 288 pages


The 18th Century heroes, Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin of the Royal Navy, are sent to the fever-ridden Gulf of Guinea to disrupt the slave trade. But their ultimate destination is Ireland where the French are mounting an invasion, a mission that will test Aubrey's seamanship and Maturin's talents as a secret agent. By the author of The Wine-Dark Sea.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Griff
I had not realized it had been at least four years since I had read an installment of the Aubrey/Maturin series. I had intentionally slowed down, not wanting the series to end. Though it had been years, the experience of reading The Commodore was like running into an old and dear friend - great
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comfort combined with great joy, as if the years had never intervened.

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are each incredible characters, with their longstanding friendship creating a third. It is all here again - the shared meals, the music, the respect for the strengths of the other, and the playful jabs regarding each other's foibles. The Commodore does not disappoint.

The story takes us from England to Africa then on to Ireland, with the usual mix of personal stories of Aubrey and Maturin (some marital concerns for each), sea battles (against slavers off Africa and the French off Ireland), and political intrigue. As with all, it is well written and leaves one ready to tackle the next adventure after savouring the last.
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LibraryThing member gbsallery
Finished reading this on a cross-channel ferry; whilst that's the closest I've yet come to any actual nautical experience, that's difficult to remember when immersed in such first-rate, evocative literature. Having reviewed earlier installments of this series, it is pointless to reiterate how
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wonderful they are - it is only necessary to state that this volume lives up to the previously-established high standards.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
One of the enjoyable things about this novel in the series is that we get to see more of Jack and Stephen in England - and thus their families are part of the storyline (if somewhat briefly). Stephen, particularly in this novel, is so calm and rational about Diana and their daughter. The ending of
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the novel is one of my favorites - "Come up to my bed. - Must I come to your bed? - Of course you must come to my bed: and you are never to leave it again." Always makes me smile!
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LibraryThing member BobVTReader
A better tale then the previous two books. The story is well written and most of the battles are 'of-stage'; however there are a number of discussions about slavery and homosexuality that wer relevent to the time period that this book was written (1995) as well as issue that were happening in
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Ireland shortly before this story was published. As they say the stories are ripped from the headlines and put in a story about a sea captain involved in the early 1800's
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LibraryThing member paakre
One of the pleasures of reading a series this long, covering this many years, is that as the characters grow older, so do we. Stephen loses his hair. Jack is constantly battling his weight. They both succumb to dangerous wounds and illnesses. They are jealous over their wives' behavior. They are
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thoroughly recognizable people, living in the world of the British navy during the Napoleonic wars.

It is time for the men to return home to their families. Sophie is a paragon of wisdom, but shows her temper. The children have the vocabulary of seasoned sailors. Stephen rushes to meet his daughter for the first time. Mrs. Oakes has been raising Brigit and Padeen does the girl a world of good when she is slow of speech.

At Ashgrove, Aubrey's estate, Stephen comes upon Jack in the middle of the night playing the violin brilliantly and realizes that Jack holds back when he plays with Stephen. Later we learn the poignant reason for Jack's melancholy music that night.

After years at sea, many missions accomplished, Jack's disgrace long behind him, he is given the rank of commodore, commander of a squadron of ships, and Stephen as always gathers the intelligence that will make his mission more sure to be successful.

The mission is to stop the slave trade off the coast of Africa. Jack, laboring under his hero, Nelson's, view that without the slave economy, Britain would lose her luster, is not convinced of the soundness of the campaign, and it is a testament to the men's friendship that Stephen who abhors slavery for the crime that it is, does not jump all over such blathering but reasons with him about it. When Jack sees the conditions and squalor first hand, he goes at the mission with greater spirit.

But he would rather be fighting Napoleon, and is spoiling for a sea battle against the French who approach Ireland as a place to foment revolution.

In this book, as in others in the series, we learn of the exotic species under Stephen's study. A potto not to be confused with a potoo is a tiny delicate monkey that could fit in your palm. When Stephen brings it on board, the ship experiences all sorts of luck.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Yet another excellent installment in this grand series. More high-seas drama, this time in combatting the slave trade (and the French, of course), as well as domestic interludes (Maturin meets his daughter, Jack and Sophie have a row) and scientific observations ("One grows absurdly attached to a
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LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
Maturin and Aubrey return home to their families (Maturin finally meets his daughter!) and then go off adventuring again. Aubrey is given command of a whole fleet of ships, and his joy in the promotion is a delight to read.
LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
The Commodore, Patrick O’Brian’s seventeenth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, picks up shortly after the events of The Wine-Dark Sea, with Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin aboard the Surprise finally returning home to England. Though they had been looking forward to home, they find
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things changed in their absence. Stephen’s wife, Diana, has given birth to their daughter Brigid, but the girl appears to have developmental disabilities. This triggers a depressive episode in Diana, who goes to visit family, leaving the child in the care of Clarissa Oakes. Jack, for his part, becomes jealous of the time his wife Sophie spends visiting the local priest, Mr. Hinksey, while Sophie becomes jealous of Clarissa Oakes after seeing that he gave both women a similar bolt of silk. Before things can get much worse, he must depart to head a squadron going to the African coast in order to disrupt the slave trade. Along the way, Stephen hides Clarissa Oakes and his assistant Padeen in Spain, along with his daughter, since the pardons he had expected for both are being delayed by a royal with connections to France.

The majority of the novel focuses on events off the African coast, where Jack and Stephen, both morally opposed to slavery, encounter the conditions on slave ships for the first time. Their orders were to disrupt the trade as loudly as possible, both to make an example, and in order that their secret plans to attack a French and American convoy heading to Ireland to arm the locals against the English will go unnoticed by French intelligence. O’Brian contrasts this with the other time Aubrey was part of a squadron, in The Ionian Mission. Like that work, having a number of ships at sea together makes it possible to tell a character-driven story against a backdrop similar to a small town, with various temperaments and conflicts. Unlike The Ionian Mission, in which the squadron was on blockade duty, here they have missions taking them around the coast of West Africa and back to Ireland, so there is more action for the characters and for the reader.

Like the previous ten novels, The Commodore exists outside the normal flow of time – this novel being the eleventh and final book to exist in what O’Brian described as an extended 1812, with these books taking place between the beginning of June 1813 and November 1813. Further, this concludes the circumnavigation of the globe that began in The Thirteen Gun Salute. 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 malcrf
A re-read as I'd managed to read both this and The Hundred Days a long way out of sequence.

Not the best Aubrey/Maturin. Perfectly decent, but not the usual driving plot, which is possibly why I didn't remember any of it!

Would have given it a 3.75 if I could have.
LibraryThing member kslade
Good addition to the series with expedition against slavery in Africa and blocking French landing at Ireland. Both the captain and doctor have problems with their wives. Seemed a little rushed at the end, but still worthwhile. I like the doctor's feyish daughter.




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