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“Martin was a thoroughly amiable man, a man of wide reading, but when he came to write he mounted upon a pair of stilts, unusually lofty stilts, and staggered along at a most ungracious pace, with an occasional awkward lurch into colloquialism, giving a strikingly false impression of himself.”
― Patrick O'Brian, The Far Side of the World
'The Far Side of the World' is driven by a fairly simple plot. It is a chase, a hunt, a sea race from Gibraltar, down around Cape Horn into the Pacific. The Surprise has been tasked with intercepting the American frigate the Norfolk as it hunts for British whalers in the Great South Sea on the Far Side of the World. The benefit of this novel's simple plot structure is it really boils the book down to what makes the series great: O'Brian's nautical prose and the relationship between Dr. Stephen Maturin and Captain Jack Aubrey.
The relationship between Maturin and Aubrey is one that captures the unique relationship that forms between some men in battle, war, etc., that seems to almost transcend relationships of blood or the liquid link of lovers. Some of the most touching parts of this novel are those lines where Captain Aubrey recognizes how his role as captain requires him to do something that will cause distress or pain to Dr. Maturin. The affection is real. It is honest. It is mature. The amazing thing is this type of love between men almost NEVER gets exposed in modern literature or art. Again, I say almost because there are example, but the great thing about this series is O'Brian lets this relationship grow and develop and adds complexities to it that are unparalleled anywhere in literature.
I also adore how these two men explore two great models* of masculinity. Captain Aubrey (to me) represents almost a Ruler form of masculinity while Doctor Maturin represents the Explorer form. These two men, with these two very distinct FORMS and WAYS of BEING men are able to interact, cooperate, resolve conflict, etc., through their linked affection, to a world at war and a world unknown. I read these novels and I believe there is nothing that Victorian rules and the Age of Enlightenment can't accomplish.
* Borrowing a bit from Clare W. Graves here.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
What a great sailing story. Not much of a story about naval battles but this story give a fabulous insight into Naval life of the 1790's. The information on whaling and the tension between British and U.S. whales was great. Patrick Tull is the best narrator of the series that I have listen to. The excitment displayed by the parson and the doctor regarding the exploration of nature was the best part of the story. The description of the Galapagos Island was magnificent.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful