Books that Matter: Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

Books that Matter

Where would this list be without at least one mention of Patrick O’Brian? For a long time, I considered O’Brian to be my favorite author. Growing up, his name was one that I knew as well as Dr Seuss. For as long as I can remember, my father read O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. I came to recognize the titles, the author, and the book covers painted by Geoff Hunt.

When O’Brian died in 2000, I remember reading the article in the paper and being a bit sad myself. I grew up around his books, even if I hadn’t read any at the time. I knew that there wouldn’t be any more of his books coming into the house.

As with The Lord of the Rings, I was motivated to read O’Brian’s books because of the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (even as a die-hard LotR fan, I still think this movie should have won best picture).  But let me return to the subject at hand before I lapse into a Hug0-esque digression.

2003. My father and I went to the movies (as no one else would join him to see the film). I went it expecting to be entertained for a few hours. What I emerged with was an obsession with the Napoleonic era, and with a need to read all of O’Brian’s works. I still haven’t accomplished this, but I have read the entirety of the Aubrey-Maturin series.

Already a fan of historical fiction, this series prompted my first serious attempts at writing historical fiction. My own stories, as impeccably researched as a high school student in suburban New England could manage, focused on, naturally, the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars. I had a great time writing these stories, and one day would love to revisit them. One of them in particular is a favorite of mine.

Not only inspiring me to write historical fiction, O’Brian’s books really inspired me to focus on the personal relationships, regardless of the genre. People are the driving force, their friendships, interests, loves. Character, to me, drives the story–at least in my own work. The friendship between Jack and Stephen is marvelous. It adapts, changes, strengthens through the series.

Plus, the books are just awesome. They are funny, action packed, suspenseful, emotional. What more could I want in a book series?

2 thoughts on “Books that Matter: Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

    1. All of them?

      I’m very fond of Master and Commander (as I’ve read this one the most), but Surgeon’s Mate is another one that I like quite a lot.


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