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Desolation Island (1978)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (5)

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2,875423,383 (4.19)55
Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy--and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew. With a Dutch man-of-war to windward, the undermanned, outgunned Leopard sails for her life into the freezing waters of the Antarctic, where, in mountainous seas, the Dutchman closes in.… (more)
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» See also 55 mentions

English (39)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I haven't got time to properly read this lovely book again, but I love the close descriptions, the period phrases thrown in just often enough (like "cutting his coat according to his cloth"), and the close Third Person narrated internal monologue that keeps enough vivid action imagery to hold interest for several surprising pages.

Well worth a first or second read.
7 Feb, 12019 HE
Shira ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
I haven't got time to properly read this lovely book again, but I love the close descriptions, the period phrases thrown in just often enough (like "cutting his coat according to his cloth"), and the close Third Person narrated internal monologue that keeps enough vivid action imagery to hold interest for several surprising pages.

Well worth a first or second read.
7 Feb, 12019 HE
Shira ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
Desolation Island, Patrick O'Brian's fifth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, once again see Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin take to the seas on one of His Majesty's ships during the Napoleonic Wars. Unlike previous novels, Aubrey's mission in this story is not explicitly for war, but rather to ferry prisoners to Botany Bay and there discover the fate of Captain Bligh (of HMS Bounty infamy) who was deposed as Governor of New South Wales following the Rum Rebellion. The early mention of Bligh and occasional references to him serve as a form of foreshadowing. The British government suspects one of the prisoners, a companion of Maturin's would-be lover Diana Villiers, of being a spy for the United States. Maturin must work to discover what information she has and how she both gathers and passes it along.
The majority of the novel focuses on Maturin's study of the woman and an American stowaway. The possibility of war with America looms ever-present in this novel (pgs. 42, 113, 264) with talk of the British policy of impressment and the unhappy coincidence that Aubrey captains the HMS Leopard, which fired upon and boarded the USS Chesapeake in 1807. This action was emblematic of worsening tensions between Great Britain and the United States prior to the War of 1812. Simultaneously, Aubrey finds one of his officers doubting his ability to command and, when injured in an action against a Dutch ship, those complaints intensify (pg. 210). Damage from an iceberg in the Southern Ocean leads the mutineers to abandon the floundering ship, leaving Aubrey and some of his more loyal sailors behind. From there, the action shifts to Desolation Island. There, further encounters with Americans foreshadow the United States' eventual entry into the war.
O'Brian's writing is its usual pleasure, firmly grounding readers in the world of life at sea during the Napoleonic Wars. That said, this novel reads more like a prologue for the eventual introduction of the United States as a belligerent to the war. Still, O'Brian handles the intrigue well and there's some good action for those looking for it. ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Jun 8, 2018 |
I'm finally getting back to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of Age of Sail novels after a bit of a hiatus. It's always a little hard for me to know exactly how to feel about these books. The deliberately old-fashioned style, complete with lots of historical slang, and the profusion of complicated naval terms make them much less fun and zippy reads than they seem like they really ought to be. Despite having read (or at least skimmed) an entire book-length guide to said terminology, I still can't follow any of the action when they're fighting storms or other ships at sea, which can get a little frustrating. But I do love the characters, and their wonderful odd-couple friendship, and the scattered moments of sly humor. I like those a lot.

This particular installment, which involves a voyage to Australia -- or at least in the direction of Australia, as they have various difficulties getting there -- seemed to me to feature a bit more slogging for a bit less reward than the last two, despite some character stuff for Stephen Maturin that did serve to regularly remind me just how fond of him I am. But once they reach the titular island, towards the end of the novel, things really came together in an interesting way, and I enjoyed the last fifty pages or so a great deal.

Rating: I'm going to give this one a 3.5/5 overall, but, hey, going very slowly and then finishing strong is better than going along well for a while and then finishing poorly. ( )
2 vote bragan | Oct 20, 2017 |
Better than The Unknown Shore (the other O'Brian novel that I've read), though both closely follow what I suspect is the author's formula: a chapter or two or preparation, followed by a chapter of sea-going fun, then a bout of scurvy and low spirits that goes on until there's a battle, followed by a shipwreck, the climax, and then the journey back to Britain. This almost perfectly summarizes the plot of both O'Brian novels that I've read.

Desolation Island had a lot more action, bigger battles, and was less interested in the shipwreck portion of the plot than The Unknown Shore. It was better book overall, and I will continue to read O'Brian, but I do hope that he soon breaks away from what is already becoming quite a noticeable formula. ( )
  Algybama | Sep 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffin, GordonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jendis, MatthiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jerrom, RicNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kučerová, SimonaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nikupaavola, RenneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiberg, CarlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Mary, with love
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The breakfast-parlour was the most cheerful room in Ashgrove Cottage, and although the builders had ruined the garden with heaps of sand and unslaked lime and bricks, and although the damp walls of the new wing in which this parlour stood still smelt of plaster, the sun poured in, blazing on the covered silver dishes and lighting the face of Sophie Aubrey as she sat there waiting for her husband.
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'Before you judge a commander,' he said, on his seven-hundredth turn, 'you must know just what he had to command.' [191: Aubrey]
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Commissioned to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, sail the Leopard to Australia with a hold full of convicts. Among them is a beautiful and dangerous spy--and a treacherous disease that decimates the crew. With a Dutch man-of-war to windward, the undermanned, outgunned Leopard sails for her life into the freezing waters of the Antarctic, where, in mountainous seas, the Dutchman closes in.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 039330812X, 0393037053

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