Monday, 4 August 2008

Review: "Desolation Island" by Patrick O'Brian...

I went through all the fiction books in the house while resting during my recent cold. At the bottom of the stack was "Desolation Island", the fifth in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I'm glad I finally got to it.

As with the other books in the series, "Desolation Island" is set during the Napoleonic Wars, a generation after Nelson. The period is lovingly rendered, the details of daily life are amazingly rich. However, what holds the piece together are the central characters and their motivation. We see their great moments and their human and ordinary moments. The color of their emotional lives shows through. We realize that these were people living in their time and making their way within the constraints of their society. During the first few books, the details about bracings, sails, riggings can be incomprehensible. After five books, patience wins out, and the technical detail adds to the charm and even the excitement of the work.

Anyway, this was an enjoyable read. Looking at the fact that there are twenty volumes in the series, I was considering taking a break once I finished the book. However, things are left at a good stopping point, but somewhat unresolved at the end of "Desolation Island", so I may have to pick up "Fortunes of War" before I stop reading the series for a while.

No comments: