The Fortune of War, by Patrick O'Brian

by admin on November 23, 2009

The Fortune of War, a wonderful adventure in the Aubrey/Maturin series, begins with Lucky Jack Aubrey bringing HMS Leopard into port after the events of Desolation Island, where he nearly lost her. The Fortune of War However, the ship is so reduced that it is no longer fit for duty. The book is set during the War of 1812, and contains lightly fictionalized accounts of the battles between HMS Java and USS Constitution, and between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake.

The Admiral on station, Admiral Drury, who Aubrey has known on and off for twenty years, allows Aubrey the privilege of returning to Portsmouth along with the officers and men of his choice. However, before leaving, Leopard’s crew takes on the crew of the HMS Cumberland at a game of cricket in which Dr Maturin surprises us all with his skills.

Following the match Aubrey and Maturin, along with several others from Leopard, set out on a journey that turns out to be full of disasters. They are attacked by an American frigate and the Americans capture Aubrey and his friends. And, indeed, Aubrey and Maturin spend much of their time in the United States where Louisa Wogan and Diana Villiers reside. So there is time for distant romances as well as for cloak and dagger activities for Steven Maturin.

O’Brian shows how the initial American successes at sea affected British morale by means of Jack Aubrey’s and other characters reactions to them. American frigates were larger than and completely outgunned their Royal Navy counterparts. As well, many of their officers and men had learned their gunnery skills on Royal Navy ships. Even so, after a long period of victories at sea, the Royal Navy expected their ships to win, and their failure to do so was regarded more or less as tragic and the losses were devastating to English morale.

The Fortune of War has some of the best action sequences ever written by Patrick O’Brian. Also Dr. Maturin shows himself more as a man of action in this book than we would have expected him to be. He actually comes across as pretty ruthless when the situation demands swift action. Overall, this is the most action packed novel so far in the series.

Link to books by Patrick O’Brian at amazon US, amazon UK, and amazon CAN.

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