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The Reverse of the Medal


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About the Author

Patrick O'Brian is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. His first novel, Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories have recently been reprinted by HarperCollins. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle. 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 was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by Trinity College, Dublin. He died in January 2000 at the age of 85.


What makes O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/ Maturin series such a remarkable accomplishment is that the only formula the author uses is the complex personalities of his British sea captain, Jack Aubrey, and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin. In this 11th book of the series (e.g., The Far Side of the World, Audio Reviews, LJ 5/1/95), Jack's sense of honor‘so devious at sea, yet so naïve on shore‘is exploited by French spies who wish to descredit him as part of a plot to undermine the British war effort against Napoleon. Jack is set up to save a stranger from a mugging and then is given some stock tips as a reward. When he profits, his reputation is ruined and the unthinkable occurs: Jack is drummed out of the service after public exposure in the stocks. This is the darkest of O'Brian's novels, following Jack's case through the corrupt courtroom system and the plotting of rival political parties. Stephen's response to Jack's tragedy is moving, exciting, and consistent with everything the reader has come to know about these two fascinating characters. Using his reptilian calm to win enormous sums at the gaming tables, Stephen purchases the "Surprise," no longer a ship of the line, to set Jack up as a privateer. Followers of the series encounter some of their favorites: Tom Pullings, the midshipman turned post captain; Diana Villers, Maturin's dashing, difficult wife; and reader Patrick Tull. Recommended for all collections.‘Sharon Cumberland, Seattle Univ.

'...full of the energy that comes from a writer having struck a vein... 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

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