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Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian
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Treason's Harbour (1983)

by Patrick O'Brian

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Aubrey-Maturin (9)

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2,216274,639 (4.19)47
All of Patrick O'Brian's strengths are on parade in this novel of action and intrigue, set partly in Malta, partly in the treacherous, pirate-infested waters of the Red Sea. While Captain Aubrey worries about repairs to his ship, Stephen Maturin assumes the center stage, for the stockyards and salons of Malta are alive with Napoleon's agents and the admiralty's intelligence networks is compromised. Maturin's cunning is the sole bulwark against sabotage of Aubrey's daring mission.… (more)
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English (23)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Czech (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Treason’s Harbour, Patrick O’Brian’s ninth book in his Aubrey-Maturin series, sees picks up shortly after the events of The Ionian Mission, with Captain Jack Aubrey refitting the HMS Surprise at Malta and Dr. Stephen Maturin working to maintain his cover as an intelligence agent amid a shake-up in the Mediterranean command and a Malta teeming with French spies. Aubrey undertakes three missions throughout the region, each time finding his missions foiled by the French intelligence networks’ advance knowledge of his missions from Malta. Stephen, meanwhile, tests out his diving bell, based on Edmond Halley’s design, and works to surreptitiously hamper the French spy networks’ efforts without further jeopardizing himself. The Surprise, nearly a recurring character in her own right prior to this, takes on a special significance when Admiral Ives informs Aubrey that she is to return to England to be sold out of the service, leading Aubrey to carefully contemplate the ship and her crew on their various missions. In a series of flashbacks, O’Brian explores Captain Aubrey’s examination to become a lieutenant.

Like his previous novels, O’Brian perfectly recreates the world of the Napoleonic War in 1812, using Aubrey’s nostalgia at the coming retirement of the Surprise to view the life aboard ship, particularly aboard this idealized ship, through rose-colored glasses and with a sentimentality that will delight his readers. This Folio Society edition reprints the original text with insets containing historical portraits and sketches to illustrate some of the scenes. A great contribution to the Aubrey-Maturin series and the third of twelve to focus on what O’Brian described as an extended 1812, with these dozen books taking place between the beginning of June 1813 and November 1813. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Sep 16, 2018 |
Uomini di mare, ma non solo

Inizia in maniera che non ci si aspetta. Si è a terra. Ed il mare? Il mare dov'è? Siamo a La Valletta, all'arsenale, termine sinonimo oggi di "cantiere" e la nave del capitano Aubrey è in riparazione. C'è un gran fermento: un capitano è passato a miglior vita ed inizia la bagarre per riempire quel vuoto e, come tutti, anche Jack Aubrey spera di coronare il sogno di una vita. La prossima missione potrebbe essere una buona chance di mettersi in mostra, ma il mare è ancora lungi da vedersi. La nave affidatagli per la missione si trova alla foce del Nilo e bisognerà attraversare un mare ben diverso dal solito per giungervi: il deserto. Giunti fra pericoli, miraggi e superstizioni sul Nilo, la faccenda si complica. Una inaspettata trama spionistica si aggiunge alle molteplici serpeggianti per tutto il racconto. Ricatti, fughe, falsi amori e vere passioni porteranno a bordo una donna che fugge da un ricatto. Incredibile come sia raccontata l'influenza positiva dell'elemento femminile a bordo: gl uomini rigano dritto, si presta attenzione al linguaggio e alla cura dell'abbigliamento tanto che il comandante riflette su come sarebbe positiva una presenza (breve e con cambi di persona continui) di una donna a bordo. Una volta cannoneggiamenti, duelli, battaglie dove il comandante Aubrey può finalmente esprimere tutta la sua esperienza grazie anche ad un equipaggio che stima essere il migliore di tutta la flotta inglese, se non il migliore di tutte le marine. Non era facile la vita a bordo a quei tempi. Gli imbarcati erano per lo più uomini che a terra non avevano nulla cui tornare: orfani, delinquenti, schiavi che, a tenerli insieme e a farli rigare dritto, non bastavano punizioni, frustate e giri di chiglia. Ma l'equipaggio di Jack Aubrey è leggermente diverso: uomini scelti, affiatati dalle tante missioni in cui hanno potuto rinsaldare la reciproca conoscenza, uomini che portano rispetto e si lasciano guidare da un comandante che non è come gli altri. Jack Aubrey è un buon comandante, non ama punire i suoi uomini se non in casi estremi, concede loro quello che si aspettano e ripaga con una giusta ricompensa, con la gloria e combattimenti senza quartiere. Un'altra avventura fantastica (per gli amanti del genere e dei diportisti assatanati come me) che continua a far sognare. Ufficiali che conoscevano almeno 3 lingue, intessevano pubbliche relazioni, si occupavano di rapporti commerciali, sapevano calcolare rotte, velocità, conoscevano la meteorologia, i venti ed i fondali ad occhi chiusi e sapevano gestire tempeste e pezzi di artiglieria nonchè i marinai ed il clima a bordo... sarà pure stata dura, a quei tempi, a bordo, ma chapeau! (solo 4 stelle per il solito finale "mozzo" di O'Brian... neanche non sapesse come finire il libro... mah!)
  Magrathea | Dec 30, 2017 |
This book contains the most skullduggery in any of the series so far. Maturin's intelligence work becomes personal (almost embarrassingly so) because of his attachment to a young naval officer's wife in Malta, who is unwillingly an agent of Napoleonic spies.

A botched secret attack, a treasure chase, Egyptian desert journeys, undersea exploration and fierce surprise (ha!) battles punctuate yet another wonderful adventure from O'Brian. This is a direct continuation of 'The Ionian Mission'. The use of dramatic irony in this story is very, enticing but tasteful. ( )
  ddueck88 | Nov 11, 2017 |
O’Brian’s writing is often compared to Jane Austen, but I strongly suspect that this is just a widespread reflex to which pretty much anything set in the Regency period is somehow “like Jane Austen.” There is at least some justice to it in this case, in so far as the implied narrator of the Aubrey-Maturin novels is clearly a contemporary and shares not only the conceptions and prejudices of his characters but also their language – as manifest not just in the extensive (and to the reader often exasperating) use of nautical terms but in O’Brians’s general choice of words, the way he constructs long periods, indeed even the very rhythm of his prose is somehow evocative of the late 18th / early 19th century. However, while on one hand the narrator appears completely immersed in the period in which the novels take place, at the same time he is clearly not and writes with a distinct detachment, watching the to-and-fro on both land and sea from a distance, with wry amusement and ever-present irony.

And irony is, I think, the key word here – the author who O’Brian makes me most think of is not Jane Austen (whose irony, it seems to me, is more of the tongue-in-cheek variety and something quite different) but Thomas Mann the vast majority of whose narrators also cultivate this involved-but-not-really-commited attitude (and his protagonist often as well – as when Joseph is said to have become in all respects like an Egyptian – “but with reservations”). Thomas Mann is one of the most imitated writers of the twentieth century, but for some reason it seems to be next to impossible to imitate him successfully – while there is a plethora of excellent, even great Faulkner epigones (to name just one example), almost everyone attempting to write in the vein of Thomas Mann seems to end up second- or third-rate (if not worse), mostly due to a vapid and anaemic prose style. Now, one can call O’Brian’s writing a lot of things, but anaemic is certainly not one of them. I suspect that the reason O’Brian succeeds where so many others have failed is that he applies Thomas Mann’s distinct brand of irony not to the novel of ideas but to the historical novel, where the genre itself pretty much guarantees a certain saturation with vivid details and a certain groundedness which prevents a text from pirouetting endlessly around itself, producing nothing but narcissistic self-centeredness – another trap those who would follow in the footsteps of Thomas Mann like to fall into.

In addition the characteristic hovering of irony, the vacillating between two sides of a border without coming down on either seems an almost too perfect solution for what is maybe the central dilemma of the traditional historical novel (i.e., not postmodern and not written by William T. Vollmann) – to present a past period as it has been experienced by its contemporaries while at the same time remaining aware of the basic impossibility of that undertaking, simultaneously immersing the reader in a historical epoch and reminding him that this immersion is an illusion, mere make-believe and an approximation at best. This is a very fine line to walk, and most historical novels tend to fall off to one side or the other – which is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact the results can be quite fascinating, especially if the novel crashes on the immersion side of the divide. O’Brian, however, always remains in perfect balance, walking the tightrope in supreme confidence. In fact, he sometimes makes it look too easy – this is always a danger of irony, that it just is not very dangerous but plays things safe, that the narrator’s equanimous distance from events prevents them from touching him too deeply.

Treason’s Harbour – to say at least a sentence or two about the actual book I’m supposed to be writing about here – does not quite escape this, I think. While it speeds things up again after the non-events of The Ionian Mission, spicing things up mainly with some espionage intrigue, it certainly chuffs along pleasantly enough, and it’s of course always a delight to let oneself be carried along by the rhythm of O’Brians prose. But I felt the novel was lacking a bit in emotional involvement. So I may have liked this chapter in the Aubrey-Maturin saga just a tad less than some previous instalments, but overall I still loved and remain eager to continue.
1 vote Larou | Jul 6, 2016 |
Emily Dickinson said there is no frigate like a book. In the Aubrey-Maturin series this is especially true. O'Brian's stories of these two characters give the reader a trip through the era of sailing warships during the conflict with Napoleonic France. This story takes place in Malta and the eastern Mediterranean and also in the sweltering Red Sea, all vividly told. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 17, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patrick O'Brianprimary authorall editionscalculated
Šimonová, JanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hunt, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Merla, PaolaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tull, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wannenmacher, JuttaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Smoothe runnes the Water, where the Brooke is deepe,
And in his simple shew he harbours Treason.
(2 Henry VI)
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Mariae sacrum.
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A gentle breeze from the north-west after a night of rain, and the washed sky over Malta had a particular quality in its light that sharpened the lines of the noble buildings, bringing out all the virtue of the stone; the air too was a delight to breathe, and the city of Valletta was as cheerful as though it were fortunate in love or as thought it had suddenly heard good news.
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W.W. Norton

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

Editions: 0393308634, 0393037096

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