Age of Sail / Book Review / Jack Aubrey / Nautical Fiction / Patrick Obrian / Royal Navy / Stephen Maturin

The Surgeon’s Mate, by Patrick O’Brian

This is the seventh installment in the popular and long-running Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. The Surgeon’s Mate is a historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars. Here we catch up with Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin just after they have gotten out of American captivity (see The Fortune of War), aboard the Chesapeake. Now they must hurry home to England.

But returning to England turns out to be more complicated than anticipated. Thus the stories in this book are multiple: Jack’s losing himself in an affair with a woman of questionable character in Halifax; “Lucky” Jack and Stephen’s mission to win over a Catalan unit from the French at Grimsholm and capture the fortress; the imprisonment of Jack, Stephen, and Stephen’s Swedish assistant Jagiello by the French; and their attempt to escape. As well, in The Surgeon’s Mate, Stephen’s secret life as a top spy for the British Crown is severely threatened.

The stories that make up this book are exciting and very interesting as well. Stephen Maturin plays a more prominent part in this book than in many of the others, and we learn more about the dangers involved in his line of work.
Also, the sea battles in this book are well described.

The book is extremely well written and full of irony and humor. Patrick O’Brian’s mastery of both the English language and the history of naval warfare is nearly unbeatable. His equal touches of comedy, grief, and humanity really put him way ahead of the competition. Overall The Surgeon’s Mate is both entertaining and exciting. I found it to be a spell-binding novel – a book very difficult to put down.


Patrick O’Brian is .. someone who shares his splendid vision, his wonderful sense of character, with a growing number of lucky contemporary readers who have found his works.” — George Garrett