Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin tales are widely acknowledged to be the greatest series of historical novels ever written.
H.M.S. Surprise follows the variable fortunes of Captain Jack Aubrey's career in Nelson's navy as he attempts to hold his ground against admirals, colleagues and the enemy, accepting a mission to convey a British ambassador to the East Indies. The voyage takes him and his friend Stephen Maturin to the strange sights and smells of the Indian sub-continent, and through the archipelago of spice islands where the French have a near-overwhelming superiority.
Rarely has a novel managed to convey more vividly the fragility of a sailing ship in a wild sea. Rarely has a historical novelist combined action and lyricism of style in the way that O' Brian does. His superb sense of place, brilliant characterisation, and a vigour and joy of writing lift O'Brian above any but the most exalted of comparisons.
Patrick O'Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.' James Hamilton- Paterson
`You are in for the treat of your lives. Thank God for Patrick O'Brian: his genius illuminates the literature of the English language, and lightens the lives of those who read him.' Kevin Myers, Irish Times
`In a highly competitive field it goes straight to the top. A real first-rater.' Mary Renault
`I never enjoyed a novel about the sea more. It is not only that the author describes the handling of a ship of 1800 with an accuracy that is as comprehensible as it is detailed, a remarkable feat in itself. Mr O'Brian's three chief characters are drawn with no less depth of sympathy than the vessels he describes, a rare achievement save in the greatest writers of this genre. It deserves the widest readership.' Irish Times
Patrick O'Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.