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The Unknown Shore


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Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherriere's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.


O'Brian's loyal following for the Aubrey/Maturin historical nautical adventure novels (The Wine-Dark Sea, etc.) has swelled from a cult to a legion of readers; thus there are many who will welcome this predecessor to that well-received series. Originally published in England in 1959 and based on British Commodore Anson's 1740 circumnavigation of the world (as was O'Brian's The Golden Ocean), this is the story of HMS Wager, a ship separated from Anson's squadron while sailing around Cape Horn. The Wager is shipwrecked off Patagonia, and the largest part of the narrative details the hardships of the diminishing band of survivors on that inhospitable shore. Daily shipboard routine, smoky 1740 London and the Indian community in Chile are all finely detailed. What will set devotees of O'Brian's better-known books positively aquiver, though, are the two chief characters: Jack Byron, an enthusiastic midshipman with ``gaudy'' family connections, and his best boyhood friend, Tobias Barrow, an unworldly budding doctor and naturalist. Their later counterparts are, of course, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, and O'Brian loyalists will have a field day comparing the four characters. Though this novel isn't quite as polished or stylish as the author's later work, it's a most honorable ancestor. Maps not seen by PW. (Nov.)

O'Brian's 1959 novel predates his popular Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin stories, but they, however, are quite similar to this title's protagonists, Jack Byron and Tobias Barrow. The plot finds them and a handful of crewmen struggling to stay alive and make their way back to civilization after the sinking of their ship.

"I haven't read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O'Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn't stop." -- E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe "Immediately and unmistakably O'Brian, with humor both slapstick and subtle, the sea implacably neutral, and his heroes bold rough sketches of Aubrey and Maturin. This and The Golden Ocean are fine forerunners of the grand series, and meeting them now is like being suddenly young again." -- Stephen Becker "Here is an unexpected bonus: a precursor to the Aubrey/Maturin series...with all the charm of the author's mature works. And for those who have been daunted by the prospect of embarking on a 17-volume series, here is the perfect way to test the waters...It has the same elements that mark Mr. O'Brian's more recent works: the wealth of social detail, the quiet humor, the harrowing shipwrecks, the swashbuckling adventures in foreign parts... .From a cozy, well-lighted 20th century home, [Jack and Toby's] travails could not be more delightful to contemplate." -- New York Times Book Review

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