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The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian

The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (14)

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1,966145,522 (4.16)39
Shipwrecked on a remote island, Captain Jack Aubrey and the crew of the Diane fashion a schooner from the wreck, only to have their makeshift vessel burned in an attack by Malay pirates. Their escape from this predicament is one that only the ingenuity of Patrick O'Brian, or Stephen Maturin could devise. The dreadful penal colony in New South Wales, harrowingly described, is the backdrop to a diplomatic crisis provoked by Maturin's Irish temper and to a near-fatal encounter with the wildlife of the Australian outback.… (more)



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English (11)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The Nutmeg of Consolation, Patrick O’Brian’s fourteenth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, picks up shortly after the events of The Thirteen Gun Salute, with Captain Jack Aubrey and the crew of the Diane shipwrecked and building a cutter out of the remains of their former ship. They come under attack from local pirates and fend them off, though at great cost to their supplies. Fortunately, a Chinese trading vessel arrives and Dr. Stephen Maturin is able to negotiate their passage to Batavia. There, Governor Raffles provides Aubrey a raised Dutch ship, which he rechristens Nutmeg of Consolation after one of the royal titles of the Sultan of Pulo Prabang. Jack takes the ship to engage the French ship, Cornélie, which he believes will water at Nil Desperandum. He engages her and leads her a chase, being saved from disaster at the last minute through the arrival of Thomas Pullings in the Surprise along with the Triton. They win the day and send the Nutmeg back to Batavia.

Aubrey, Stephen, and others transfer back to the Surprise and continue on to New South Wales. They find conditions in the penal colony shocking and the general corruption daunting. Having run out of his coca leaves, Stephen finds himself on-edge and ends up in a duel with Captain Lowe, who insulted the Irish to no end. Fortunately, Stephen wins and receives happy news. He visits Padeen Colman, who had been transported following earlier events resulting from his addiction to laudanum. Stephen plans to help Padeen escape, but Aubrey warns him against it due to the delicate position in which the Surprise finds itself vis-à-vis local politics. Stephen travels to the arranged meeting place in order to view duck-billed platypuses, successfully capturing one, only to be poisoned by its spurs. When the Surprise arrives, Padeen is brought aboard with the shore party, where Stephen recovers.

At one point, Stephen, Mr. Martin, and Paulton discuss novels, allowing O’Brian to describe his philosophy for endings. Through Stephen, he writes, “There is another Frenchman whose name escapes me but who is even more to the point: La bêtise c’est de vouloir conclure. The conventional ending, with virture rewarded and loose ends tied up is often sadly chilling; and its platitude and falsity tend to infect what has gone before, however excellent. Many books would be far better without their last chapter: or at least with no more than a brief, cool, unemotional statement of the outcome” (pg. 242). This perfectly captures many of O’Brian’s endings.

Like the previous sevel novels, The Nutmeg of Consolation exists outside the normal flow of time – this novel being the eighth of twelve to exist in what O’Brian described as an extended 1812, with these dozen books taking place between the beginning of June 1813 and November 1813. 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. ( )
2 vote DarthDeverell | Oct 1, 2019 |
In which Aubrey and Maturin survive the typhoon which wrecked Diane, and with remaining crew command a salvaged Dutch frigate in pursuit of French Cornelie. While the long game remains to disrupt Spanish chicanery in South America, the immediate objective is the Cornelie and reuniting with Pullings in Surprise. Events open precisely where the last volume left off, with first Nutmeg and then Surprise sailing from East Indies to Australia.


Stephen weathers several reversals of fortune, striving to maintain an even keel throughout. Jack reveals in letter to Sophie his idea of purchasing Surprise from Stephen, with prize money from American merchants. Stephen puts down Lowe handily with a sword in a duel after Lowe insults Stephen at Government House, leading to much friction with Surprise through remainder of stay at Port Jackson. Stephen and Martin go on expedition into the bush, where Stephen is bit by a courting platypus.

Joined by two old hands, Adams from Lively who comes aboard as Jack's clerk, and Stephen's old mate Padeen. Two stranded mids are picked up in Java, Miller and Oakes, and while rated do not serve as midshipmen. Jack does his level best to avoid killing Christy-Palliere's son, Pierrot (Jean-Pierre Demesnil) in a cutting out action in waters east of Borneo. Jack receives a letter from his son, Sam, now a vicar. Stephen unexpectedly meets his cousin James FitzGerald while visiting Lady McQuarrie. Sarah & Emily Sweeting taken aboard, sole survivors of smallpox after whalers visit their village on Sweeting Island. Stephen learns from an old patient Diana's had a daughter. ( )
  elenchus | Jun 14, 2018 |
The ship rats get into Stephen's coca leaves and become addicts! Ship wrecks! Jack and Stephen sail to Australia! Stephen thinks he's lost his fortune, and finds out that Diana has had a daughter!

Lots of great character moments, and the writing when Stephen is contemplating his great happiness at the end of the book is truly lovely. It does kind of randomly end, though. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Another romp through the southern oceans for Aubrey and Maturin: escape from a desolate island, a complicated plan to overtake a French frigate, rendezvous with old friends, and then a visit to Botany Bay (where Maturin has an unexpected run-in with a much-sought Australian critter). The description of penal-colony Australia is well drawn, and O'Brian's witty humor and good storytelling are as present here as in the other volumes. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Mar 29, 2013 |
Things that stood out for me in this novel included the descriptions of life in Botany Bay (penal colony in Australia) and the matter-of-factness of being shipwrecked. I have a romantic view of Australia - but Mr. O'Brian paints a dismal view of conditions there for prisoners. And it always amazes me that a shipwreck doesn't seem to phase Jack and his crew. They are always confident that things will work out. Mr O'Brian continues to amuse (but you have to read carefully to catch some of the jokes)! ( )
  tjsjohanna | Jun 30, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, GrahamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodger, N.A.MAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Any author whose tales are situated in the early nineteenth century and whose people are for the most part sailors must depend for a great deal of his factual information and for much of his sense of the time on the memoirs and letters of seamen, on Admiralty and navy oard records, on naval historians and of course on the invaluable publications of the Navy Records Society.

Author's note.
A hundred and fifty-seven castaways on a desert island in the South China Sea, the survivors of the wreck of HMS Diane, which had struck against an uncharted rock and had there een shattered by a great typhoon some days later: a hundred and fifty-seven, but as they sat there round the edge of a flat bare piece of ground between high-water mark and the beginning of the forest they sounded like the full complement of a ship of the line, for this was Sunday afternoon, and the starboard watch, headed by Captain Aubrey, was engaged in a cricket-match against the Marines, under their commanding officer, Mr Welby.

Chapter one.
The period which Patrick O'Brian has made his own, the Great Wars against France, is at once the least and the best known part of all British naval history.

The naval world of Jack Aubrey, by N.A.M. Rodger.
'Many books would be far better without their last chapter: or at least with no more than a brief, cool, unemotional statement of the outcome.' [Stephen to Poulton, 242]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 0393309061, 0393030326

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